Stay Clear of Danger

If you encounter a downed power line, call NLI for help. Photo by Dan Wanous

A downed power line may not be dead. It could cause serious injury or death.

The early months of 2021 brought Northern Lights (NLI) a number of damaging windstorm events. These storms brought down numerous power lines throughout NLI’s service territory. We had a quiet summer as far as damaging weather goes, and we are all thankful for that.

As we head into winter, it is a good time to discuss the dangers of downed lines and what to do if you happen upon one.

If you see a downed power line, immediately call NLI or the appropriate utility if you know who it belongs to. If the downed power line is in a roadway, blocking public access, or appears to be a hazardous situation, also contact 911.

Never touch a downed power line. Never touch a person, vehicle, tree, or other object that is in contact with the wires. The power line could still be energized and create a hazardous situation. The power system is designed to “trip” if there is a fault, but it does not always happen. You may think you are being helpful by removing trees, but it is unsafe to do so. If a tree is in contact with wires and those wires are still energized, the energy could travel through the tree and shock a person. Treat downed lines as linemen do and never assume they are deenergized. NLI linemen are trained to properly test, deenergize, and isolate the line before performing work to clear debris or trees.

If a power line falls on an occupied vehicle, those inside should stay put until help arrives. If you or a person must exit, jump clear so no part of your body is touching the car when you land. Keep both feet together and shuffle or hop at least 30 feet away from the vehicle. This should only be done if there is other imminent danger, such as the car being on fire.

If you see someone who has been shocked by a power line, do not touch the person. You could become a second victim. Warn others in the area to stay away.

As mentioned above, immediately call the NLI outage line at (866) 665-4837 for downed power lines and, if need be, 911. If you can, stay in the area to warn people of the danger until emergency personnel or NLI arrive. If we have a large storm event, we may not be able to get to a particular location immediately, but we want everyone to know to stay clear. Emergency personnel can keep the scene isolated until NLI can respond so no one gets injured or killed.

Please call us for any downed power lines you see and do not assume we know about a downed power line already. During large storms, we can have many areas impacted. Our dispatch will keep track of all areas reported to make sure they are prioritized for public safety and that they get fixed by a line crew. We would rather have a few extra phone calls than not know about something.

Safety of NLI employees, members, and the public is a high priority to NLI. By following the above and allowing NLI linemen to clean up downed power lines, we can keep everyone safe.

Kristin MettkeNorthern Lights Engineering & Operations Manager Kristin Mettke is an electrical engineer and has worked in the electric utility industry most of her career.