Public contacts with electric lines are on the upswing as harvest begins and contractors work to complete their digging before the ground freezes. On Monday, the Sioux Valley Energy electrical system had five public contacts in just one day ranging from farm equipment hitting an overhead line to contractors digging into underground cable.
“One contact is too many, but five is unacceptable. We need the public to pay attention to their surroundings—looking for overhead lines before moving large equipment. In addition, everyone is required to call 811 48 hours before they plan to do any digging to locate underground utility lines,” said Terry Ebright, Safety Coordinator for Sioux Valley Energy.
When a piece of equipment hits an electrical line, outages will often occur which impacts the productivity of both individuals and businesses. However, more importantly, those public contacts can be dangerous. “Fortunately, none of the public contacts we have seen recently have resulted in any injuries, but anytime you come in contact with an electrical line whether its above ground or underground—there is a risk of injury or even death,” said Ebright.
If a member of the public does come in contact with an electric line, these are the steps they should take to stay safe:
If your equipment or vehicle contacts a power line, stay inside the cab/vehicle. DO NOT EXIT. Call 911 and Sioux Valley Energy for help and warn anyone nearby to stay away from your vehicle. Only exit the vehicle after you are told by the authorities that it is safe to do so. Exiting a vehicle that has contacted energized power lines can cause electrocution. The downed power lines could be charging the equipment with electricity and, if you step out, you will become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be killed by electric shock.
If you must get out of your vehicle because of a fire, tuck your arms across your body and jump with your feet together as far as possible from the equipment so no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Move away from the vehicle with your feet together, either by hopping or shuffling, until you are at least 40 feet away. Electricity spreads through the ground in ripples. Keeping your feet together prevents one foot from stepping into a higher voltage zone than the other foot, which could cause electrocution.
When you are clear of the area, call for help and keep others away. DO NOT approach your vehicle again until utility crews and emergency responders tell you it is safe.