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What to do when you come across a downed power line after a storm

Utility poles are knocked off their foundation, dropping power lines, after a tornado ripped a swath of destruction through the area on Thursday, April 23, 2020 in Onalaska, Texas. Maynard was inside his home when the tornado devastated the area. Severe weather is moving through southern Mississippi and Alabama after apparent tornadoes tore through parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. Multiple people have been killed, (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Utility poles are knocked off their foundation, dropping power lines, after a tornado ripped a swath of destruction through the area on Thursday, April 23, 2020 in Onalaska, Texas. Maynard was inside his home when the tornado devastated the area. Severe weather is moving through southern Mississippi and Alabama after apparent tornadoes tore through parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. Multiple people have been killed, (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP) (© 2020 Houston Chronicle)

In the aftermath of a major storm, you may discover downed power lines.

If you see a power line on the ground, always assume the line is energized and be aware of its hazards.

According to CenterPoint Energy, a live wire touching the ground can cause electricity to travel through the ground, radiating outward from the contact point.

It’s important to stay away from the power line and secure the area to keep others away.

Here’s what to know about downed power lines and how to protect yourself according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International:

Use Precaution

  • Downed power lines can energize the ground up to 35 feet away. Even more in wet conditions.
  • Never drive over downed power lines or through water that is in contact with them
  • Never try to move a downed power line. Even using items that typically are not conductive will not prevent injury or death
  • If you see a downed line call 911

If a vehicle contacts a power line or utility pole stay away and call 911

  • Consider all lines to be live and dangerous
  • Stay in place or inside your vehicle unless you see fire or smoke
  • Warn others to stay at least 35 feet away
  • Tell others not to approach vehicle, downed lines, or anything that may be in contact with downed lines
  • Call 911

In the Event of Fire or Smoke

  • Do not touch the ground and vehicle at the same time
  • Jump from vehicle with your feet together
  • Shuffle away, avoid lifting your feet