Safety for First Responders…
If you are an emergency worker -- a member of a police, sheriff, EMS, or a fire department --chances are good that you’ll be among the first on the scene when there’s a traffic accident, storm or other situation that results in downed wires. NEC reminds you of the important steps to take when you are the first responder to such a situation. The steps below could save a life and maybe your own life.
- Stay Away - When there are downed lines, your job is to stay away and to keep others safely away. Secure the area, remembering that there may be dangers you can’t see in the immediate area.
- Contact NEC - Only a power company employee or other properly trained personnel, with the proper equipment and procedures, can remove a power line. Contact the NEC immediately at 1-800-NEC-WATT (800-632-9288) and be sure to specifically mention the downed wire and that it is an emergency situation. Our dispatcher and crews will give immediate attention to the situation.
- Don’t assume that because a wire isn’t sparking that it isn’t energized. A downed power line can still be hot.
- Don’t assume that a phone or coaxial cable line isn’t energized. It’s possible that a few spans away, an energized power line could be touching the phone or cable line, energizing it as well. And there’s always the possibility that what you think is a phone line is really a power line.
- Don’t assume that you can assess the full situation. There could be hazards that you can’t see: a line down that is concealed by a tree, bush or brush; an energized line down a few spans away; and other hazards could still be present.
- Keep members of the public as far away as possible and especially away from metal objects such as wire fences and guardrails that may have become energized from sources you can’t see.
When Wires Contact A Vehicle
It is rarely safe to advise people to move when wires fall across their vehicle. The situations where it is best to have the person drive the vehicle out from under the line or when it is best to have them jump from the vehicle are few and far between. In the vast majority of cases, it is best to advise the occupant to stay put until the power company workers can stabilize the situation. This often is true even if the occupant is injured.
A Word About Equipment
Of course you are aware of materials that are good, non-conductive insulators. But don’t assume that you can use any piece of polypropylene rope, any rubber gloves or any wooden ladder safely around electricity. Often equipment must be of a certain weight or gauge to protect against various electricity voltages. And a number of things you can’t see – a tiny hole in a glove, oil or dirt on a rope or a damp spot – can eliminate the item’s protective qualities. Please remember that electric utility workers use material and equipment intended expressly for working around electricity. They match the equipment to the work and routinely inspect things to make sure they meet safety requirements.
One Final Reminder
When you are the first responder to an electrical emergency, to help manage risk to the public, your best procedures generally are to stay away, keep others away and contact the power company. Need materials that will help remind your department members of the recommended procedures when responding to emergencies involving electricity? NEC may be able to help you. Please call us at the number above and ask for the NEC Safety Manager.