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As a first responder, “safety first” is a way of life. Our goal is to ensure that with these facts and tips, you are equipped to handle electricity with an equal level of expertise and caution.

 


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how electrical hazards can be foreseen & avoided

​Electricity always seeks all paths to ground. It will use any conductor -- metal objects, wet wood, water, or your body. If you touch an energized bare wire or faulty appliance while you are grounded, electricity will instantly pass through you to the ground causing a harmful, possibly fatal, shock.

​The amount of electricity used by one 7.5 watt Christmas tree bulb can kill you if it passes through your chest. Even if not fatal, electrical shock can easily cause serious burns, falls, cuts or internal bleeding.

Overhead power lines are typically not insulated and are located high off the ground for safety reasons. Substations and transformers contain energized parts that are very dangerous to touch. Underground power lines, while well insulated, can be easily damaged by a shovel or pick and create a shock or flash hazard.

Birds can sit on a power line and not get shocked because they are not touching the ground or any other grounded object. But if you or the metal ladder or antenna you’re holding touches the same line, you’ll become electricity’s instant path to ground and risk a potentially fatal injury.

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damaged power poles or downed power lines
  • ​Call the utility immediately and give an accurate location with pole or equipment number if available.
  • Keep spectators well clear of the area. If possible, secure the area around a damaged pole or downed power line 50 feet in all directions.
  • Do not spray water on wires or energized electrical equipment.
  • If a downed power line or equipment is touching other potentially conductive objects (fence, shed, automobile, etc.) consider them to be energized as well.
  • Do not attempt to move any downed power lines. Wait for utility personnel to safely correct the situation.
  • Gloves, footwear, clothing and equipment (pike poles, etc.) will not eliminate your risk of electric shock and injury.
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downed power equipment in contact with a vehicle or equipment
  • ​Do not approach or touch the vehicle or piece of equipment if downed wires or electrical equipment are in contact with it. Consider the downed wires or equipment and the vehicle or equipment as energized.
  • Visually check the occupant(s) from a safe distance and have them remain in the vehicle or on the equipment unless it is a life-threatening situation.
  • If the occupant(s) must leave the vehicle or equipment, instruct them to open the door but not step out. They must jump free of the vehicle or equipment without touching the vehicle or equipment and the ground at the same time.
  • Instruct them to shuffle step or hop (with both feet together) away from the area at least 50 feet. Have them stop and determine if they can feel any tingling sensation in their feet or legs, which is a sign that gradient voltage is present. If so, instruct them to shuffle step or hop another 50 feet away and repeat until there is no tingling sensation.

substation emergencies
  • ​Contact the utility company, provide an accurate location and ask for a “troubleman response.”
  • Do not enter a substation unless escorted by an electric utility worker. There are many hazards associated with substations, including the danger of arcing, explosions, toxic smoke and oxygen deficiencies.
  • Protect secondary exposures beyond the substation perimeter. Never spray water on metal enclosed switchgear.
  • Secure the area, keeping the public as far back as practical.
  • Never park vehicles under power lines or close to electrical hazards.
transformer, switching cabinet, underground vault or manhole fires
  • ​Call the electric utility, provide an accurate location and ask for a “troubleman response” immediately.
  • Keep the area clear of bystanders and first responders. There is a possibility of electrical explosion.
  • Never enter a vault or manhole containing electrical circuits or equipment until the utility company confirms the space has been de-energized.
  • Always wait for the electric utility personnel.
  • Do not spray water on electrical fires until utility personnel inform you that the equipment is de-energized.

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structural fires
  • ​Call the electric utility immediately giving good location information.
  • To secure the electric power of a structure, use the fuse box or breaker panel. If available, turn the sub-breakers off first, followed by the main breaker. Commercial structures may not provide access to sub-breakers. In this case, turn off the main breakers.
  • If the structure is equipped with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, and it is daylight, the PV panels will continue to convert sunlight to electricity. The solar industry recommends applying opaque tarps over all PV panels to reduce or limit exposure to solar electrical issues. Open the Utility Safety Disconnect Switch to isolate the PV system and prevent back-feed into the building’s service entrance section. But remember, the PV system will continue to be energized unless the sun is prevented from reaching the PV panels themselves. Associated PV system wiring, inverter, sub-meters, etc. will remain energized.
  • Never remove the structure’s electric meter. Removing the meter can result in an electrical flash or explosion with the possibility of injury.
  • Never cut or remove the service lines. Wait for the electric utility personnel to arrive and safely de-energize the grid supply to the structure for you.