What should I do if I see a downed power line?

Avoid approaching any power lines that have fallen, even if you believe they are no longer conducting electricity.

If you come across a downed power line, dial 911 without delay. It's important to treat all fallen power lines as live and hazardous. These lines have the potential to electrify the surrounding ground and objects. Maintain a distance of at least 30 feet from any downed or partially suspended power line, as well as from any other item that could be energized. (Please remember to contact 911 solely if you visually confirm the presence of a fallen wire; refrain from assuming a wire is down solely based on a power outage.)

If you see a black coating on wires, it is not insulation. This coating is to protect the wire from elements like snow, ice, wind and rain. You cannot rely on this for personal protection. It doesn’t matter if the wire is touching the ground or not, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not arcing either—it can still be energized. Anyone touching the downed wire, or items or debris that wire is touching, can be seriously injured or killed.

Also, the ground around a downed wire can be energized. For distribution wires, stay AT LEAST 30 feet away (in all directions) from downed wires or else you can be electrocuted from the ground being energized. For transmission wires, stay AT LEAST 100 feet away. For reference, 30 feet is about the length of a normal school bus.

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1. Is being a power lineman a dangerous job?
2. What should I do if I see a downed power line?
3. What causes power outages?