This past Sundayís wind storm resulted in very little damage here in Russell, despite the exceedingly strong winds only a couple of power lines were damaged. Considering the strength of the winds when the storm arrived I first imagined that we would be in far worse shape than what actually happened. Even though there was very little damage we did have a power line down on Church Street with a large branch blocking passage. For emergency workers downed electrical lines are always considered hazardous and life threatening, unfortunately the public doesnít always share this viewpoint and many of our firefighters have been witness to this disregard numerous times. In the emergency service ALL hydro wires are considered to be live and only a hydro technician can determine if it is not. Many people arenít aware that downed live hydro wires donít always spark or arc when in contact with the ground, they can remain energized with an electrical current running through them. Additionally the danger zone around downed wires is not restricted to the wires themselves, the electricity from a hydro line can energize the ground around the area, and all emergency workers are trained to remain at least 10m (33 feet) away from any wires or objects in contact with the downed wires.
A life threatening shock can result simply from entering into the energized zone.That is why such a large security perimeter is set up around downed hydro lines. In the event of a storm which results in power lines being knocked down, extreme caution should be taken whenever leaving your home or venturing outside immediately after or during the storm.
Another scenario that can take place is a motor vehicle collision that results in downed power lines, such as a car hitting a hydro pole. In cases such as this energized power lines can actually be in contact with a vehicle yet the occupants will remain safe as long as they stay within the vehicle. It is very important for anyone in this situation to remain in the vehicle if it is at all safe to do, should they exit the vehicle and contact the ground and vehicle at the same time instant electrocution and death will be the result. As mentioned before, an area of up 10m around the downed wires can also become energized so just getting close to a collision with downed power lines can be life threatening.
It is very important for parents to make sure their children know not to go near downed trees or power lines during or after a storm. The threat is real and the consequences are far too high.
Published in the Villager newspaper July 20, 2011
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