Every car accident has the potential to be dangerous. But when those accidents involve power poles or other electrical equipment, the risk to passengers and first responders can be even greater.
“You can’t see electricity. That’s the biggest danger,” says AREA Safety Specialist Jeff Whatley. “Not all power lines spark and arc when laying on the ground, so you have to assume they could be energized.”
Safe behavior after an accident involving electrical equipment can sometimes be counterintuitive, so it is important for members to understand what to do in case an accident occurs:
- Stay in the car and call 911. If the vehicle is energized and you step out onto the ground while still in contact with it, you could be electrocuted.
- Let the 911 call center know you hit a power pole so they can contact the utility.
- Stay in the vehicle until utility workers have de-energized the line.
- If you must exit the vehicle, open the door, turn sideways and jump clear with both feet together, without touching the vehicle. This prevents electricity flowing through the vehicle from passing to ground through your body.
- Keep both feet together and “bunny hop” to safety, approximately one power pole length away. Doing so keeps different strengths of electric current in the ground from running through your feet.
- Warn first responders that your vehicle may be energized when they arrive.
Britt Betts, AREA’s training and safety coordinator, also warns that those who may come across an accident involving a power pole need to keep their distance. “Angels always come out when there’s an accident,” he says. “But if you drive up on something like that, even though you want to get out and help, if there are lines down you have to stop yourself.”
Springing into action
When SAEC gets the call that a car accident has occurred involving a power pole, the cooperative turns to its SCADA system. Thanks to remote switching technology, a cooperative employee can immediately cut energy to that section of line before anyone arrives on the scene. After that, safety comes first as SAEC follows the lead of emergency personnel.
“From our perspective, we go by what the first responders tell us,” Betts says. “We’ll de-energize the switches, ground the line if need be and do whatever we need to make it safe for them to get to the vehicle.”
Once everyone has been safely removed and the vehicle has been towed, SAEC can begin repairs on the equipment itself.
For an up-close look at what to do if you have a car accident involving a power pole, watch this video.