Jared Hendricks

by: Jared Hendricks, Marketing/Energy Conservation Officer

We all know that electricity must be treated with respect to avoid serious injury.  We do really well thinking about electric safety in the home by teaching our children not to stick objects in outlets, unplugging toasters before using a butter knife to free the bagel stuck inside, and we ensure we don’t use hair dryers near water.  All of these are important things to know and practice to keep us safe inside our home, but how do we stay safe around electricity outdoors?  Power lines run over your head or under your feet nearly everywhere we go.  Electricity in these lines needs to be treated with even more respect than we give it in our homes.

Even if you don’t work near power lines on a regular basis, you may be put in a situation from time to time where risk of contacting an overhead line is high.  There is a simple step that can help keep you safe from these dangers if you practice it in your daily life.  Look up.  Before pruning a tree, look up to make sure a power line does not go through it.  When carrying a ladder, carry it horizontally and look up before placing it for use to make sure it won’t come within 10 feet of a power line.  When working on your roof, look up to see if a power line is near and stay at least 10 feet away from it.

Another potentially dangerous situation that you could happen across is a downed power line. If you see a downed power line you should always assume it is energized and dangerous.  Do not approach a downed wire or anything it may be touching such as a fence or tree.  Electricity from downed lines can use you as a pathway to ground and cause severe injury or death.  Always stay at least 50 feet away from a downed line and call OPU or 911.  In Owatonna, call our 24-hour emergency number: 507-451-1616.  If you are away from town and not sure who the power company is, call 911 right away.

A question I often get asked is: “What do I do if a power line falls on my car while I’m inside?”  Your first instinct might be to get out of the car to get as far away from the downed line as possible.  This puts you in a more dangerous situation, though.  The best thing to do is to stay in the car and call for help.  Stay in your car until emergency personnel tell you it is safe to exit the vehicle after turning the electricity off to the wire.  A recent storm in Rogers, Minnesota, was a good reminder of this lesson.  Multiple vehicles were trapped under downed power lines.  Staying inside until the lines were de-energized kept the occupants safe from the hazards of electricity.

The only reason to leave the safety of your car in contact with a power line is if a fire starts in the car.  At this time, it is more dangerous to stay in your car, but you need to take special steps to ensure you can exit the car safely.  It is important not to touch anything on the car and the ground at the same time.  Make sure your hands are crossed to your shoulders or tight to your side and jump from your car as far away from it as you can, landing with your feet together.  Making sure to keep your feet close together, shuffle your feet until you are at least 50 feet away from the downed line and car.

Remembering these simple tips could mean the difference between staying safe and severe injury or death.  More safety information can be found on our website owatonnautilities.com under the Safety tab.