Exiting a wrecked vehicle could increase electrocution risk - AmericaNowNews.com

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Exiting a wrecked vehicle could increase electrocution risk

Imagine you're involved in a wreck and survive the crash - most people's first instinct might be to exit the vehicle immediately.

If live power lines are dangling on top of the vehicle, you could be killed or seriously injured while stepping foot onto the ground.

So, what should you do?

"In a situation like this, the best thing you can do is sit in the vehicle unless you're facing imminent danger," according to Dee Putnam who is the senior health and safety specialist with Duke Energy.

"Don't get out, stay in the vehicle!" he said.

If the collision resulted in fallen power lines, it could be extremely dangerous for you to get out of your wrecked vehicle. From your vantage point, you may not be able to see the power lines.

"If there are lines across your truck or your vehicle, it's got the whole vehicle energized. It might be carrying 7,000 volts of electricity—a lot—enough to power a small neighborhood," Putnam pointed out.

Once you open your vehicle door and step onto the ground, you become an electrical conduit.

"The electricity is flowing down through the truck, so when I step out I'm now another path for the electricity to travel from the truck, through my leg, to the ground, and it could kill you," Putnam said.

The best thing to do is to remain in your vehicle, and use your cell phone to dial 911.

The only time you should consider exiting a wrecked vehicle that has come in contact with downed power lines is if the vehicle is on fire, or if there is some other danger near you.

If you must get out, Putnam recommends you jump so both feet land on the ground precisely at the same time.

"The point is not to see how far you can jump, but to maintain your balance. You want to jump and keep your feet together," Putnam said.

What you want to do is avoid having simultaneous contact with both the car and the ground because that creates a circuit, and this could cause an electrocution to occur.

"The electricity can travel up one foot, through your body, and down the other foot," and Putnam added, "That's why when you exit the vehicle, you need to keep your feet together and basically hop out of the vehicle."

Ideally, Putnam says you should shuffle your feet, and keep them in contact with the ground as you get away from the vehicle.

If you drive up on an accident scene and your good Samaritan instinct prompts you to remove someone from a wrecked car--think again.

"Whether they are phone lines, cable lines or electric power lines, the best thing that good Samaritan can do is to tell the person to stay in the car," Putnam warned.

But that's not all. The good Samaritan should stay back at least 30 feet from the wrecked vehicle while encouraging the person who needs assistance to remain in their car until paramedics and firefighters arrive.

When emergency first responders arrive, they'll know what to do to de-energize any dangling power lines, and if the situation is more than they can handle, they'll notify electricians with your local power company for assistance.

If you come across a victim who is on the ground and they are in contact with a power line, you should not touch them at all.

"When I touch that victim, that electricity that's traveling through here, traveling through the victim, travels through me, and takes me out," Putnam said.

A number of well-intentioned people have died or suffered serious injury while trying to be a good Samaritan.

"Maintain calm, keep your senses about you, survey the situation, and if there are downed power wires, stay back," Putnam advised.

One other thing to remember involves driving over utility lines that have been brought down due to bad weather.

Don't think you can drive over the wires just because of your rubber tires. Those lines can become entangled in your axle or wheel and they could electrify your car causing it to become an electrocution danger.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

The following information regarding power line safety is from the Duke Energy website (Source: http://www.duke-energy.com/company.asp).

  • Less than one ampere of electricity can burn, severely injure or kill someone.
  • Electricity travels at about 299,330 km per second.
  • All metals, waters, humans and non-metallics (trees, rope, etc) can conduct electricity depending on moisture content and surface contamination.
  • Birds don't get electrocuted when they land on wires because they are not connected to the ground. Electricity seeks a path to the ground.
  • Many overhead power lines are insulated only to a level to prevent problems from incidental tree contact.
  • Since metal is an excellent conductor metal ladders are a natural hazard when around overhead power lines. If the ladder is wet, it is a hazard. Keep them away from lines.
  • Electricity can jump so keep your ladder at least ten feet away from power lines.
  • Electrical wires and lines may be underground.

The following information is from About.com (Source: http://electrical.about.com/od/electricalsafety/a/downedpowerline.htm).

  • If the car is on fire and you must get out, open the car door and stand on the FLOORBOARD of the car. Jump away with both feet together. Don't hang on any part of the car during the jump, including the handle. 

The following information is from the Snohomish Public Utility District (Source: http://www.snopud.com/Safety/downedlines.ashx?p=1756).

  • Stay at least 30 feet away from any downed line.
  • Do not drive across downed lines thinking the rubber will protect you. The line can become entangled in your axle or wheel.
  • If you are in your vehicle, sit quietly inside and wait for help to arrive.
  • If bystanders arrive, signal to them to stay 30 feet clear of the vehicle so they are not hurt.
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