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Down. Danger. Dial. A new safety message for fallen power lines

September 5, 2017

4 min read

An earlier version of this story appeared on bchydro.com on May 2 2016

Some of us are unclear of the steps to take when you see a downed line.

In a quick, informal survey of my friends who don't work with me at BC Hydro, I'm relieved to discover that most of them recognize the danger of a fallen power line. But few of them have a complete picture of what to do and who to call.

I ran the email survey as a bit of a test in the lead-up to a new BC Hydro safety campaign, all around what we hope is a more memorable and effective message for the general public: Down. Danger. Dial.

The thing you have to know is that every downed power line is dangerous and should be treated as an emergency. If you see a downed power line, it's dangerous, so dial 911 immediately.

In my survey I asked: 

"You're walking, round a corner and see a broken pole and a power line on the ground. You see no sparks. What do you do?" 

All respondents said they'd stay clear. Many said they'd warn everyone else in the area to stay clear. And all said to call... but this is where they needed some help.

When you see a fallen power line, assume it is live, and call 911, not BC Hydro. The reason is that 911 offers quicker access to emergency personnel that can get to the incident and ensure that the public stays away until the area is safely secured.

Do you also know how far to stay away?

The second area where my friends were unclear of proper safety procedure was around how far you need to be away from a fallen power line. The area around where the power line touches the ground, or even near where it's dangling in the air, can carry electricity and could cause electrocution. The same goes for objects nearby – they can become energized, too.

To be safe, you need to stay a minimum of 10 metres away, or about the length of a regular city transit bus. Take care not to touch any objects within 10 metres of the power lines, and warn anyone you see that the power line should be considered live.

Here are two helpful infographics that cover safety information around fallen power lines:

You can also try out this fun activity in class to give your students hands on skills on how to stay safe around downed power lines.

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Power Smart for Schools Team

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