When used with care electricity can be safe and improve lives. But it can cause death and injury if used improperly.
Here’s the How & Why
Electricity flows along paths called circuits. When you turn the light switch on, you are closing a circuit (that is, creating a path) from our electrical distribution system along power lines to your home’s wiring and then to your light bulb. When you turn off the light switch, you are opening that circuit, which then cuts off the electricity flow.
Some materials allow electricity to flow through and others block it. Materials that allow electric current to flow are called conductors. Aluminum, brass, copper, silver, gold, and water make good conductors of electricity. Materials that do not conduct electricity are insulators (also referred to as non-conductors). Glass, rubber, and plastic are good insulators. Appliance cords insulated with non-conductive materials such as plastic or rubber. High voltage lines and equipment are constructed high overhead using the air space as insulation and underground lines are insulated and out of public reach or protected by some other means.
It’s never safe to approach a power line that is on the ground.
This is often called a “downed” power line. Our protection system is designed to de-energize a line when its falls to the ground, but sometimes conditions affect our system’s ability to know that a line has fallen and is on the ground. Approaching downed power lines can be fatal, never attempt to move a downed line regardless of the circumstance.
You don’t have to touch a power line to be electrocuted. Electricity is always searching for a path to ground. If you make contact with a tree or other object in contact with the line, you can become that path.
Power Lines on a Vehicle
Anyone who touches a vehicle while standing on the ground can be electrocuted. Those inside the vehicle should remain inside and wait for help to arrive. If bystanders arrive, they must be told to stay clear and call 911 for help. If it becomes necessary to leave the vehicle, keep both feet together and jump clear of the car, avoiding any wires that might be on the ground. Stay calm and jump carefully so that you don’t fall back against the car or touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time. Shuffle with both feet together until you are clear of the area, keeping both feet on the ground at all times. Never drive over a downed power line, stay away and help keep others away from the general area of the downed power line.
Tips for Staying Safe
At Home, for Contractors and the Public:
- Call Lewis County PUD to resolve safety related questions or concerns about our power system.
- Never bring ladders, antennas, irrigation pipe, long-handled tools or other items within 10 feet of an overhead power line.
- When climbing, pruning, trimming or felling trees. Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines. No attempt to remove a tree or branch in contact with a District line should be made by anyone other than a qualified PUD Employee.
- Never attempt to rescue someone who has contacted a downed power line or object in contact with a line. Call 911 for help.
- Never assume it is safe to move or even approach a downed power line under any circumstance.
- Under normal conditions pad mount transformer cabinet installations are safe, but the public is urged to keep off and not tamper with them. Don’t ever try to open the transformer cabinet or reach inside if it is open. Utility cabinets should not be buried in landscape material or surrounded by shrubbery.
- Do not enter electrical substations. Do not go into a substation to retrieve balls, kites or any other objects that go over the fence.
- When working around underground installations, it all comes down to four words: “Call before you dig.” If digging trenches, fence posts or other work that requires digging, remember to “call 811 before you dig.” Washington: (800) 424-5555 or www.callbeforeyoudig.org. Locate requests should be made two days before you start excavating or digging. Underground utility locates are generally performed at no charge.
- Never overload outlets by plugging in too many appliances.
- Ensure electrical outlets and panels have the required protective plates and covers.
- Water and electricity are a deadly combination. Never use an electric appliance in or around your bathtub, shower or any other wet surface.
- Cover your outlets with plastic safety caps if you have small children.