Power Line Safety
Power Line Knowledge Saves the Life of a Keosauqua Man...SIEC Urges: Know How to Survive Auto Accidents Involving Power Lines!
Just one week before Easter, what could have ended in a tragedy had a happy ending for the Oliver family. Curtis Oliver, 19, of Keosauqua was headed home from church that Sunday evening. It had been snowing that day, and as he came around a corner just west of Keosauqua on J40, he hit a slick spot. As the back end of his car came around, Curtis tried to correct the slide, but was unable to keep his vehicle from sliding off the road. His vehicle hit one of Southern Iowa Electric’s utility poles snapping it in half; the top part of the pole and attached wires were lying across Curtis’s car.
Doing the wrong thing could have ended Curtis’ life that night. Even though it was dark outside, he could see the wires on his vehicle. Curtis said, “I knew I had to stay inside my vehicle and not attempt to get out.” You see, Curtis had learned that vital safety message as a high school student during a live power line demonstration sponsored by Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative.
Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative and Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative are committed to helping everyone understand how to stay safe around electricity, and sponsor Kyle Finley’s Live Line Demos for students at their local high schools. A big part of Finley’s program is showing what to do, and more importantly what not to do, when you’re in an accident involving downed power lines. Kyle teaches that the decision you make is one of life or death.
“You can’t see, hear, or smell electricity so there’s no way of knowing if the downed power lines are energized,” Finley says. “Never assume that the power line is off because that’s one mistake that could cost you your life.” Thanks to the knowledge he gained watching the Live Line Demo program, Curtis knew exactly what to do – he stayed inside his car and called for help!
The first to arrive on the scene was Deputy John Zane. As he approached the accident, he was unaware that power lines had fallen across the roadway and were chest high. What could have been another tragedy also had a happy ending as Deputy Zane saw the lines in time before he walked into them. With the local fire department and law enforcement on the scene, traffic was stopped to prevent others from driving into the downed energized lines.
The fire department called Ray Charbonneau from Keosauqua Light & Power and explained they had an accident with downed power lines. Charbonneau arrived on the scene, confirmed the lines were still energized, and headed to SIEC’s Pittsburg Substation. With SIEC Foreman Tim Hamburg on the phone, Ray was able to shut down the power at the substation, cutting the power to the downed lines. Ray then returned to the scene, cut the lines so traffic could resume and Curtis could safely exit his vehicle. SIEC crew’s arrived shortly, repaired the pole and restored power at the substation.
SIEC wants everyone to know how to stay safe in these accidents. Stay inside the car if at all possible – it’s almost always the safest place to be when power lines are down or around your car. Don’t get out. Call for help and wait for the utility to arrive and de-energize the lines. Warn others approaching the scene to stay away.
The only time to consider getting out is if the car is on fire. Then you have to jump from the car – without touching the car and ground at the same time – land with feet together to prevent deadly current flow, and hop away from the car while keeping your feet together. Staying in the car is best if possible. Don’t get out unless you have to.
First responders to an auto accident should look all around for the possibility of downed power lines before approaching. A common mistake by emergency responders is to not use their spot light when arriving at a scene. If power lines are down or sagging, keep everyone far away until the utility company arrives and ensures the lines are de-energized.
Thanks to everyone’s efforts, in this case, no lives were lost. SIEC would like to thank the Keosauqua Fire Department, law enforcement agencies, Keosauqua Light & Power and Ray Charbonneau for a job well done! SIEC is also proud to sponsor Kyle Finley’s Live Line Demo, without which this story could have had a very different ending.