Up in the air, power lines are usually out of reach. Those of us on the ground hardly notice the wires far above our heads.
But unfortunately, things sometimes happen that bring utility poles and power lines down to the ground, and that’s a dangerous situation for all involved.
Heartland has worked with first responders in our region to help train everyone how to stay safe when accidents happen.
When a car runs off the road, it frequently crashes into a utility pole, bringing power lines down to rest on top of the car. First responders arriving on the scene need to know the importance of keeping a proper distance from the crashed car. Occupants of a vehicle in contact with power lines need to remain in the car until utility crews arrive to disconnect power. Too many people assume that when power lines come down, power goes out.
That is not always the case. If a live line is in contact with a vehicle, any occupant may be electrocuted when they step from the vehicle.
This can happen in a high-speed crash, or even something as simple as a driver backing into a meter pole in a driveway.
It's important to remain in your vehicle and wait for utility crews to arrive and disconnect power before you get out of your car. Stepping out of a vehicle that is in contact with live wires can result in electrocution.
In addition to automobile accidents, large farm machinery is another frequent piece of equipment that can rip down utility poles or get tangled in power lines.
“There is a lot of big equipment out there,” says Paul Norris, Heartland’s director of operations. “It’s easy to hook a pole or a guy wire and pull it down.”
Planting and harvesting seasons are of course the times of the year when farm-machinery accidents happen, as farmers rush to get their work done as weather permits.
Ag-related fires are another problem. When farmers burn off their wheat fields, sometimes utility poles get burned as well.
Some poles can burn like a cigarette and fall, and other times they remain standing until wind or a little bump makes it crash down.
In all these situations, an energized wire can be left dangerously close to the ground where someone can accidentally come in contact and be electrocuted.
When accidents happen, the first priority is to get help. Calling 911 is best if the situation is life-threatening. Calling Heartland will get utility crews out to help disconnect power and make sure the situation is safe.
And of course, there are a couple of other good reasons to use caution around power lines.
Reliability is one. A single down pole and power line can leave a lot of people without power. The second is cost. A farmer who snags a power line or starts a fire that results in a burned pole is liable for the damages. Repairs needed to replace a single damaged pole can run up to $2,500.