Look up, look down, look out


Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007

The tragic accident that claimed two lives in Kenai this week is a somber reminder that power lines, while necessary to provide electricity to our homes and businesses, are extremely hazardous and may result in serious injury or death if contacted.

Unfortunately, many people are killed or injured each year from accidental contact with electricity. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the leading cause of fatal electrical incidents in the workplace is contact with power lines, above and below ground.

Our local electric utility, Homer Electric Association, has an ongoing advertising campaign that stresses safety around power lines. These safety reminders bear repeating, and we urge our local electric cooperative to continue spreading the message to as wide an audience as possible. Education is a key factor in keeping our work force, families and neighborhoods safe.

The following safety tips are recognized by several safety organizations as key steps to staying safe around power lines.

* Always assume that a power line is live, energized and dangerous. This includes power lines that may be on the ground as a result of a storm, vehicle accident or other types of unusual circumstances. Power lines are extremely hazardous and can kill you if contact is made. You need to stay a minimum of 10 feet away from a power line, but the further away from the line you are, the safer you will be. If you see a downed power line, report it immediately to Homer Electric at (888) 8OUTAGE or call 911.

* Never make contact with power lines with anything; this includes your body and any kind of tool, pole, tree branch or board. Keep all equipment such as ladders, cranes, scaffolding, high-reach tools and booms away from power lines (at least 10 feet). The equipment does not have to touch the line to conduct electricity. Electricity can jump, or arc, to a piece of equipment or person who gets too close.

* Beware of a downed power line touching a vehicle. If a power line does fall on your vehicle, stay inside until emergency assistance arrives and warn others to stay away from the vehicle. If you must get out of the vehicle due to a fire or other life-threatening situation, jump clear, do not touch any part of your car and the ground at the same time, and stay away from the fallen line.

* Do not trim or climb trees near power lines. If you have questions about removing limbs or trees near the power line, call HEA.

* When you are going to dig, call the Alaska Dig Line at (800) 478-3121 for utility locates before you begin excavating. There is no charge for this service. Contacting an underground power line with a piece of equipment can result in serious injury or death.

Please take time to talk to your friends and family about these safety tips. And always remember when you are around power lines: Look up, look down and look out. It just might save your life.

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