Sure, when power’s out, you want it back – and may even want to help – but it’s not worth risking a life. When you see a broken or downed power line, call 911 and then call Hydro Ottawa at 613-738-0188.
Always assume a downed line is live and capable of giving a serious, even deadly shock. Stay back 10 metres, don’t assume the ground around the wire is safe. Electricity can spread out from a wire through the ground, like ripples in a pool. The voltage in the ground will be highest near the point of contact and will gradually reduce with distance. If the ground is wet, the electricity can travel further.
What if a vehicle crash takes down lines?
If you witness or are in a crash that involves a downed line, call 911. If you’re outside a vehicle, stay well away and instruct others to do the same.
If you’re in a vehicle near a downed line, it’s usually best to stay inside until emergency crews arrive. But, if there’s another emergency, like a fire in the vehicle, and you must get out, jump out as quick as you can. Once out, and on the ground, don’t touch the car, as then you would be in contact with two things that could be holding an electric charge.
Odd as this may sound, shuffle walk with your feet together, until you’ve reached a safe area, 10 metres away. Different parts of the ground could be energized with different voltages and electricity could run from one area to the other through you, adding to your risk.
Staying safe around overhead power lines
Caution is still needed around power lines, even when there isn’t a problem. Lines mounted at the top of hydro poles are not insulated and pose some risk when people get close. You don’t need to touch a wire to get a shock. Electricity can arc through the air to you, or a tool that you’re holding.
Always remain a safe distance away from power lines. The recommended distance increases with the voltage level. For a power line with less than 750 volts, 1 metre away is good. For lines above 250,000, stay a good six metres back.
Often, storms can cause broken branches and trees to lean on power lines. Members of the public should not try to remove them. Report them to us by phone or online.
What about power lines near swimming pools?
You’ve probably heard the saying, “water and electricity don’t mix well.” For this reason, we offer regulations and guidance for pool owners. Swimming pools, hot tubs and other water-related backyard items should not be located within a Hydro Ottawa easement or over underground cables that service a house.
Check your property survey to see if there are easements near your pool. You can also contact Hydro Ottawa’s asset records departments at 613-738-5499 ext. 7173 to find out.
Always use caution
Almost any type of material has the potential to conduct electricity in varying degrees. So when near a power line, whether it’s damaged or not, exercise caution. It’s not shocking to suggest that it’s always best to think about safety first.
This is the fifth in a series of blogs to mark Emergency Preparedness Week, May 7 to 13. For more see the Emergency Preparedness section of our website.