Safety tips that can save your life

Electric cooperatives’ top priority is always to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy to their members. Your well-being and that of the larger communities we serve are of paramount concern.

May not only means spring storms and potentially severe weather, it also heralds the beginning of the celebration season for many high school students, especially seniors. Proms, graduation parties and other social gatherings are often associated with this time of year.

While we naturally focus on the sunny aspects this season brings, we also sometimes hear about preventable tragedies involving young people and car accidents. This brings me to the topic at hand: safety.

Does your teen or loved one know what to do in the event of a collision with a utility pole resulting in a downed power line? Do your loved ones know what to do if they come upon an accident with a downed power line? This month, I’d like to share a few safety tips that I hope you never have to use. But if you do, they could save your life or that of loved ones.

Life-saving tips

If a car collides with a utility pole, the vehicle may be charged with electricity. Anyone exiting the car could come in contact with thousands of volts of electricity from the downed line. In essence, when you step out of the car, you become part of the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted. It’s critical to stay in the vehicle and tell others to do the same until emergency crews have told you it’s safe to exit the car.

If the vehicle is on fire, or you must exit for other safety reasons, jump clear of the vehicle. Do not let any part of your body or clothing touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away (in small steps with your feet still together) to avoid electric shock. Keep moving away until you are at least 40 feet from the vehicle.

If you come upon a car accident involving a utility pole and downed power lines, keep your distance. A downed power line can energize the ground up to 35 feet away. While your natural instinct may be to rush to the car to help, instead pause. Do not approach the car or scene of the accident. Tell others to stay away. The best action you can take is to alert emergency officials, who will in turn coordinate with the power provider.

Never drive over a downed power line or through water that is touching one. If you have a downed power line on your property as a result of a falling tree, storm or other circumstance, do not go near it. Always assume the downed line is energized and dangerous. Never try to move the power line even if you think it’s not energized. Wait until an electric co-op crew or emergency officials have confirmed it is safe to do so.

May is Electrical Safety Month

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, thousands of people in the U.S. are critically injured and electrocuted as a result of electrical fires, accidents and electrocution in their own homes. Many of these accidents are preventable.

We know first-hand how dangerous electricity is because Illinois’ electric cooperatives work with it all day, every day. To me, safety is more than a catch phrase. I view it as my duty and responsibility to keep co-op employees safe and to help keep our communities safe.

Contact your local electric co-op for additional electrical safety tips. It is no accident that safety is our top priority.