The potential for downed power lines rises with wind warnings issued Friday across the B.C. south coast.
The first thing to do after coming across a downed or damaged power line is call 911, said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro community relations manager.
The advice is simple: “down, danger, dial.” Anyone who comes across a downed or damaged line should stay back and call 911 right away – even if the danger isn’t obvious. It’s better to be safe and let emergency crews access the area, Olynyk said.
“Always treat the line as though it’s still energized,” he said.
After calling 911, people can call and let BC Hydro know what’s going on, but emergency crews will alert the electrical company themselves, he noted.
An electrical line doesn’t have to be fully down to require a 911 call. Whether a tree has fallen on a line, a cross-arm is broken, a power pole is leaning over or a line is sagging or dangling on the ground, there is a risk.
Olynyk noted the importance of staying at least 10 metres – or the length of a city bus – away from a downed line as it could still be energized or “back-feeding” into the system due to something like an improperly wired generator. Anyone closer than 10 metres to a downed line should shuffle, not walk, away, Olynyk said. Keeping both feet on the ground reduces risk of electrocution.
If someone in a vehicle spots a downed line or collides with a pole, it’s best to stay in the car if it’s safe, Olynyk explained. If there’s no imminent danger, try to drive at least 10 metres away then call 911. If it’s necessary to leave the vehicle, jump out without touching the car and make sure to land on both feet.
Downed lines are more common in the fall and winter as wind storms can cause branches and debris to damage electrical infrastructure. BC Hydro asks that everyone be extra vigilant in the stormy months.
Olynyk recommends residents visit the BC Hydro website for more tips and safety recommendations.