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Be ready for accidents involving power lines

If in a vehicle accident involving downed power lines, it’s almost always safest to stay in the vehicle until utility crews confirm the lines are de-energized. (Submitted photo)

Winter driving conditions require people to be especially alert and cautious. Unfortunately, accidents still do happen.

Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services (PPCS) reminds the public to be extremely cautious if in an accident involving power lines. If a driver hits a power pole, or otherwise brings down a power line, he or she should stay in the vehicle and wait until someone with the utility is on the scene and makes sure the lines have been de-energized.

Power poles carry high, potentially fatal levels of electricity. If someone is in an accident with one, their whole vehicle may be charged with electricity. If they step out, they’ll become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be killed by an electric shock.

Loose wires and other equipment may be in contact with the car or near it. If the person accidently touches these, it can be deadly. Arcing electricity and electrical sparks from damaged power poles pose additional dangers, but lines don’t have to be arcing or sparking to be dangerous.

Only if there is a danger of fire should occupants exit the car. Then, do so by safely jumping free and clear of the vehicle, landing with feet together and “bunny hopping” away so as not to have different strengths of electric current running from one foot to another.

“When people are involved in a car accident with downed power lines, electricity is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind,” said Brad Ristow, Pierce Pepin’s electric operations manager. “We’re more concerned about whether anyone was hurt, or how badly the vehicle is damaged. Too often, we forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re at risk for coming in contact with thousands of volts of electricity.”

Remember, too, that if coming upon or witnessing an accident involving downed power poles and lines, don’t leave the vehicle to approach the accident scene. Downed lines can be just as dangerous for well-meaning bystanders who approach the car to help. Stay away from the accident until utility professionals and emergency responders have confirmed there are no electrical dangers.