Safety In the Neighborhood
When thinking about your home or neighborhood, chances are you don’t picture power lines. They’re easy to overlook, stringing high above your roof, along property lines and roadways, near trees, or they may even be located underground. But the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind,” may be dangerous—power lines pose serious electrical hazards if forgotten.
Electricity flows through metal, wood, water, and many other conducting materials, including human beings—all in an effort to reach the ground. Small birds can sit on power lines unhurt because they don’t create a path to ground. But you and your ladder do.”
Trees can be a power line’s worst enemy. Strong winds, storms, and heavy ice can topple trees or shatter branches that pull down power lines and cause outages. Sometimes, even if heavily damaged, lines remain energized with the potential to electrify trees and nearby objects.
Arcing and flashovers between power lines and trees are also dangerous. In winter, extra weight from snow and ice can bend or break tree branches, bringing them close to power lines. During warm weather or when power lines are carrying heavy electrical loads, they can heat up and sag as much as 15 feet or 20 feet, dropping them toward nearby vegetation. Electric current caused by arcing or flashovers between power lines and trees in either situation can easily injure or even kill an individual nearby.
Follow these safety tips and be sure to pay attention to power lines:
- Make sure to always look for nearby power lines before you cut down any tree or trim branches. If a tree falls into a power line, contact Randolph EMC at 1.800.672.8212.
- Treat all power lines as energized. Never climb or attempt to handle a tree that has a limb caught in a power line. You may not see any visible evidence that the tree is “electrified” or dangerous.
- Make sure to maintain required clearances between equipment and power lines.
- If a fire starts from a fallen power line, notify the fire department and your local electric co-op. Stay away from the site of the electrical hazard. Make sure others stay clear of the line and treat it as energized.
- Do not use water on or near a fallen power line.
A line doesn’t have to be touched to spark danger—electricity can jump, or arc, from a power line to a person or equipment that gets too close. When equipment comes into contact with power lines, it becomes energized and dangerous.
Overhead power lines are not insulated. Touching a power line or an object in contact with one can result in serious injury—even death.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises the best protection is lots of space. Don't operate equipment around overhead power lines unless you are authorized and trained to do so. You should also let Randolph EMC know when you’re working within 10 feet of power lines. Contact us at 1.800.672.8212 to give us a heads up.
OSHA provides these general guidelines:
- When working near overhead power lines, the use of non-conductive fiberglass ladders is recommended.
- If an object (scaffolds, cranes, etc.) must be moved near overhead power lines, appoint a worker whose sole responsibility is to observe the clearance between the power lines and the object. Warn others if the minimum distance is not maintained.
- Never touch an overhead line if it has been brought down by machinery or has fallen. Never assume lines are dead.
- When a machine is in contact with an overhead line, DO NOT allow anyone to come near or touch the machine. Stay away from the machine and contact 911 and Randolph EMC at 1.800.672.8212 immediately.
- If you should be in a vehicle in contact with an overhead power line, DON'T LEAVE THE VEHICLE. As long as you stay inside and avoid touching outside metal, you should avoid an electrical hazard. If you need to exit to summon help or because of fire, jump out without touching any wires or the exterior, keep your feet together, and hop to safety.
Source: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Electrical Safety Foundation Institute
Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call – even small projects like planting trees and shrubs. The depth of utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in a common area. Digging without calling can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm you and those around you and potentially result in fines and repair costs. Call 811 before every digging job to help prevent undesired consequences. This service is available to all North Carolina residents free of charge. Be sure to call well in advance so that Randolph Electric and other utilities will have ample time to mark their lines. Learn more about 811 here.
Along with taking necessary steps to respond to an electrical emergency, you can help stop potential power line problems before they start by practicing these safety measures:
- If you notice anything such as trees or equipment that might interfere with power lines or pose a serious threat, notify Randolph EMC at 1.800.672.8212.
- If you are planning to plant trees on your property, make sure not to plant them directly under or within at least 25 feet of power lines for short trees, and at least 40 feet away for medium-sized trees. Click here for a quick tree-planting guide and to learn about REMC's Right-of-Way Maintenance Program.
- Shrubs, hedges, and other plants should be kept clear of electric towers and poles.
- Always warn children of the dangers of electricity. Learn more about keeping kids safe here.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy