Powerlines: How to stay safe near overhead, downed and underground lines

Overhead powerlines in a storm

When it comes to powerlines, a good rule of thumb is to just stay away. It’s important to always respect the power of powerlines by using common sense and exercising safety precautions when playing or working near them.

Overhead lines

Working near overhead powerlines requires extra attentiveness and precautions. Accidents involving contact with overhead powerlines can damage equipment and cause serious injuries or even death.

Before doing any work on a job site, always conduct a thorough survey that identifies any power lines, utility poles, guy wires, service drops, and other power-related equipment. Always check carefully for overhead lines before raising any long-handled tools or equipment. If you need to cut a tree or branch, be sure it won’t fall into power lines. Always remember to look up and keep at least 10 feet away from powerlines.

Underground lines

Underground cables and utilities
Practice safe excavations and always be aware of underground cables and utilities. Never dig without full knowledge of what might be under your digging area. The existence and locations of underground hazards can be determined by calling your state’s “Call Before You Dig.”

Downed power lines

If you see a downed power line, move away from it and anything touching it. The ground near powerlines may be energized up to 35 feet away. You cannot tell whether or not a power line is energized just by looking at it and you should assume that all downed power lines are live. Never walk under or step over a downed power line and be careful not to touch or step in water where one is located.

If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person; you could become the next victim. Call 911 for help and do not attempt to move the powerline.

In the event your car comes in contact with a downed power line while you are inside, stay in the car. Honk your horn to summon help, but direct others to stay away from your car to prevent them from getting injured. 

If you must leave your car because it is on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with both the car and the ground at the same time. The proper way to move away from the powerline is to shuffle away with small steps keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times; this will minimize the potential for electric shock.

For more tips on how to stay safe when it comes to powerlines, read Look up and live:  Avoiding electrocution.