Downed Power Lines

Overhead power lines and equipment such as poles may be broken by storms, ice, equipment failure, or vehicle accidents. If you see a downed power line, call 911 immediately and then call Hydro Ottawa at 613 738-6400.

Always assume that a downed power line is live. Anything that is in contact with a downed line, such as trees, vehicles, or fences, can also be live. This includes the ground around the power line, as electricity will spread out from the 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. Be careful of wet ground, as it allows electricity to travel further.

To help ensure your safety, always stay at least 10 meters (33 feet) away from downed overhead power lines and from any objects that the lines are in contact with.

Vehicle Accidents

If you witness or are involved in a vehicle accident that involves a downed power line, immediately call 911. While waiting for emergency crews to arrive, it is important to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Remember, the minimum safe distance from downed power lines and other electricity sources is 10 meters (33 feet).

If you are outside of the vehicle:

  • Stay well away from downed power lines, from vehicles that are in contact with electrical power lines, and from any other objects that may be electrically charged. Stay at least 10 metres (33 feet) away at all times.
  • Instruct those around you to stay back from power lines and all potentially charged objects.

If you are in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed power line:

  • The safest thing to do is stay in your car until emergency crews arrive to assist you.
  • If there is a secondary emergency, such as a fire, and you cannot safely stay in your vehicle:
    • Remove loose fitting clothing to ensure that no part of you gets hooked or stuck on your car.
    • Open the vehicle door all the way. Ensure that you use the handle and do not touch any other part of the door.
    • Get ready to jump out of your vehicle by standing inside your car near the door. Bring your elbows and hands close to your body.
    • Jump out of your vehicle. Do your best to land as far as possible away from your vehicle, with your feet together, and without stumbling. You must never be in contact with both your vehicle and the ground at the same time.
    • Shuffle-walk until you have reached a safe area at least 10 meters (33 feet) away from the downed power line or electricity source. As you shuffle, keep your feet touching one another at all times.
      • Different parts of the ground could be energized at different voltages. If your feet are each in different voltage areas, electricity could run from one area to the other through you. This is why it is important to shuffle and always keep your feet together.
    • Once you are in a safe area at least 10 meters (33 feet) away from the power source, wait for emergency crews.

Diagram: Exiting a vehicle in contact with a downed powerline

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