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What To Do If You See A Downed Power Line

down powerline
(credit: Shutterstock)

The unfortunate chance of a downed power line being any part of your day in Los Angeles is highly unlikely, but if it happens, be sure to take a moment to think of these brief suggestions. The power grid is a vitally useful aspect of modern life that we can't begin to imagine life without it, but if you see a power line that has come undone from it's pole, this is a life and death situation that requires your immediate attention. Commit these suggestions to memory so they will be your automatic reaction, it could save a life, perhaps your own.

Related: Earthquake Resource Center

Tip 1: Don't Touch it!

When you see a power line that is laying on the ground, it won't look like a sparking writhing snake like you see in the movies. In fact, it could look like a dead coiled cord just laying in the street. You may think you could drive over it, but you definitely SHOULD NOT. The incredible power of that downed electrical line is not visually apparent, but driving over it could cost your life or the lives of your passengers. Back carefully away from the downed line and never touch it. Unfortunately, the protective coating will not insulate the wire.

Tip 2: Call 911/ DWP/ Local Utility Company

If you do not have a cell phone available, ask a local resident to call the utility company or 911 for immediate emergency services. When a disaster strikes and the power lines are snapped, sometimes emergency services are overwhelmed and help can seem like it is not going to come soon enough. Carefully back away from the area and wait for the authorities to arrive. Take shelter and alert anyone nearby of the impending danger from the downed power line. Although unseen, the voltage can arc, so keep a distance of 50 feet or more.

Tip 3: Electricity Seeks Ground

The electrical force in overhead power lines is a mysterious things to the casual user. What is electrical power doing when it comes unattached from it's grid? Power seeks a path to the ground. If a wire is touching something, like a tree or a fence, electricity will naturally seek the great gravitational pull of the earth through that barrier. The enormous earthly magnet is the force electricity uses for its mighty power and it will go through any object in it's path to seek the earths magnetic pull. Don't get in the way of that. The fence, the tree, or vehicle that comes in contact with the downed line with be electrified and merely touching it can cause your body to become a pathway for the electricity to seek it's ground. When high voltage runs through a person, they are electrocuted and often die from the experience. Even the ground itself is energized with a huge unseen electrical charge.

Tip 4: If It Touches Your Car, Stay Put

In some unusual circumstances, a power line could come in contact with your car. This is a particularly distressing situation when passengers and drivers aren't sure what they should do. Knowing the right procedure to manage this situation could save your life and the lives of your loved ones, so pay close attention. Voltage diminishes over distance and ripples away from it's point of ground. Anything crossing that pathway can be electrocuted by the force of the voltage passing through them. Do not touch anything. Sit within the vehicle until authorities arrive and instruct you how to exit the car. The metal of the vehicle can become the electrical "ground" and anyone coming in contact with the car can be electrocuted. Unless the car is about to burst into flames, you need to stay quietly within the car until PD arrives. If an exit is unavoidable, try to jump away without touching anything.

Tip 5: Wait For The Experts

The electrical power grid is only for the experts to manage. Police, firemen and even emergency medical workers aren't expert enough to turn off the high voltage line. The utility company has emergency crews that work around the clock and will assist in these situation to prevent a tragedy. They do need time to do their work and, in emergency situations, it may seem like a long wait, but try to be patient and allow the professionals time to accomplish the tricky task of disconnecting the high voltage lines that have come down. Then follow their instructions carefully, your life may depend on it.

Related: Disaster Preparedness

As a creative professional in Los Angeles, Cat West brings versatile skills to any topic. Whether freelancing as a writer or designing digital art from her studio, Cat provides excellent creative product with content driven artwork and photography.

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