<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Sunday,  July 14 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Life

Energy Adviser: Use caution around downed power lines

The Columbian
Published: April 29, 2015, 5:00pm

Wind, wires and trees can be a dangerous mix. Locally, recent high winds felled trees and knocked branches on roofs and disrupted power lines. At least once, unrestrained electrical power that damaged property was unleashed.

Vancouver resident Anita Shepler experienced the power of electricity during a recent storm. A lightning strike exploded a neighbor’s 100-foot-tall evergreen. Kindling from the exploding tree blew across a two-block area. Shepler lost all electricity to her home. A surge of power shot through it so strongly that she saw sparks spurting out of the electrical sockets, leaving several with burn marks.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Still, her experience serves as a warning about the potential danger of electricity and the damage it can do. While her experience is noteworthy, high winds caused smaller dramas around Clark County, damaging power lines and trees that needed attention if residents were to remain safe.

During a storm — or anytime — you can’t tell a “hot” wire from one that’s not. Don’t make the mistake of trying to find out. Stay 30 feet or more feet away. Touching a downed line will shock you; it may kill you.

Don’t become one of the nearly 400 individuals electrocuted each year. Electricity surging through your body can send you into cardiac arrest. It can disrupt muscle activity so that you cannot let go of the line. And, it can burn you.

If you see any lines down or hanging in a tree or fence, immediately call 360-992-8000, 360-992-3000 or, if there’s an emergency like a fire or someone who is hurt, 911. Always assume the worst — that the line is live with electricity. Don’t approach it or attempt to block it. Let the experts at Clark Public Utilities decide if the line’s hot or not.

Preventive measures

Although it’s tough to plan for a dramatic event like a lightning strike, there are still things you can do to make electricity safer outside of your home. “Check to see if your outside electrical outlets have ground-fault circuit interrupters,” said Michael Getman, safety manager for the utility. “GFCI are electrical safety devices that trip a circuit when they detect a fault or current leakage.” They prevent you from being shocked, because they shut off the power. Building supply and electrical stores sell them for about $20.

Landscape properly. Don’t plant trees that will grow tall near power lines. “Plant trees that won’t grow taller than 25 feet,” Getman said. If trees around your home are growing into power lines, call the utility.

Some power lines are underground. That’s why you’re required to call 811 two business days before you plan any digging. Workers from the area utilities will come out and color code underground utility lines and cables with temporary colored paint.

Properly anchoring and moving extension ladders can also prevent hazardous contact with electrical lines. “We ask residents to be careful when using or moving extension ladders,” Getman said. “Place them away from power lines and secure them before climbing up to prevent a fall or having them slip into a power line.”

He also advises using extension cords with care. Never use one around water or wet areas, even dewy grass. Frayed or broken cord insulation generally makes it dangerous to use, because the break might touch water — a very good conductor of electricity — or metal and shock you. “Our advice is for safety’s sake, replace any extension cord with a break in the insulation,” Getman said.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.