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HAMMOND – In the last week, there have been at least two local reports of vehicles coming into contact with power lines and utility equipment. Luckily, in both cases, neither driver was electrocuted.
In one accident, on Thursday, Aug. 6, more than 1,500 St. Croix Electric Cooperative members in the northeast portion of St. Croix County and more than 500 Dunn Energy Cooperative members lost power for 90 minutes when a truck spreading turkey manure on a field caught a transmission line while driving ahead before the box was lowered. Luckily, the driver remained in the cab until the line was de-energized. Had he tried getting out and touched the ground and truck with the line still energized, he would have been exposed to a fatal 40,000-volt shock.
“Thursday’s outage was due to a preventable accident and we apologize for the inconvenience to members. We understand a loss of power can also mean a financial loss for many of our residential and commercial members. It’s unfortunate and an example that power outages can occur at any time – even without severe weather in the area,” SCEC President/CEO Mark Pendergast said.
“Any time our crews arrive on-site and see a vehicle or piece of equipment in the lines, it is scary,” he continued. “We regret members were out of power for 90 minutes but are also thankful everyone involved in the accident and power restoration were safe.”
Without being able to physically see electricity flowing through overhead power lines, it is easy to forget how dangerous electricity is. Most roadside lines are energized with 7,200 volts of electricity. The large transmission line snagged by the truck bed was 69,000 volts but, because of the line hit, the voltage was phased down to 40,000 volts. Most outlets in homes are just 120 volts.
So, what should vehicle occupants do if they are in an accident involving power lines? STAY IN THE VEHICLE. Instinct would be to get as far away from the lines or equipment as possible. However, because the vehicle is grounded, a driver and passengers are safest in the vehicle unless another hazard (such as a fire) exists where it would be more dangerous to remain in the vehicle. Below are tips for what to do in the event of an accident involving power lines or electric utility equipment and, if necessary, how to safely exit the vehicle.
Laminated “Vehicle Safety Cards” with this information are also available at no charge to anyone who wants one (or two!) by contacting St. Croix Electric Cooperative or stopping by the office (1925 Ridgeway St., Hammond, Wis. | 715-796-7000 | firstname.lastname@example.org). A digital version is available at http://scec
Accident involving a power line, pole or underground electrical enclosure (green box):
1. Stay in the vehicle. Assess any injuries to passengers. Stay calm. Do not let anyone outside of the vehicle near the accident scene.
2. Call 911 to report the accident (it is OK to use a cell phone in the vehicle). The dispatcher should also contact the local utility (St. Croix Electric: 800-924-3407 or Xcel Energy: 800-895-1999).
3. Stay inside the vehicle and assess the situation outside (e.g., lines down, pole down, arcing lines, fire, leaking fluids, etc.). Visually locate all power lines/equipment; assume it is all energized.
4. If a life-threatening situation exists (e.g., fire, severe continuous arching or an unstable crushing incident, etc.) and it is more dangerous to remain in the vehicle, find the exit farthest away from power lines/equipment and jump out of the vehicle. Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. KEEP YOUR FEET TOGETHER and hop or shuffle away from the vehicle/power line. This is a last resort option. Staying in the vehicle is the safest choice, if possible.
5. Keep the dispatcher aware of changes that occur to the situation before help arrives.
6. Keep everyone away from the vehicle until a uniformed lineworker says it is safe to exit/approach the vehicle. Any outside bystanders who try to run to the vehicle to help could be electrocuted in the process, so they best thing they can do is stay far away and keep others away until help arrives.
St. Croix Electric Cooperative wants to share this message to keep our family, friends and neighbors safe. This information is also covered in the Co-op’s Safety Town demonstration, which is appropriate for all ages and available to local community groups upon request.