There are many safety hazards confronting first responders (i.e., police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel) when they arrive on the scene of an emergency. Private citizens also may become first responders. Energized electric lines and equipment are a primary concern, and risks can be lessened by applying some basic safety principles.
View videos — Electricity: Recognizing and Avoiding the Hazards
Downed Lines — An ice storm, windstorm, tornado, forest fire or flood can bring down power lines by the hundreds. A car accident also may snap a utility pole and drop a power line. If you see a power line on the ground, don't assume that it is insulated. Stay at least 30 feet away from the wire and secure the area to keep others away, too. Remember that electricity can pass from an energized source through a victim. If a rescuer touches the victim, the rescuer also can become a victim. (Read more about downed lines.)
Notify the Utility — Contact the local utility and have trained personnel respond to the scene. Never attempt to handle wires yourself unless you are properly trained and equipped.
Control Traffic — If possible, set out flares and stop or reroute traffic. Keep spectators away (at least 100 feet). After dark, light the scene as well as you can by directing headlights or spotlights on the broken or fallen wires. Metal or cable guard-rails, steel fences and telephone lines all may be energized by a fallen wire.
Protect Yourself — During any rescue attempt, never rely on rubber boots, raincoats, rubber gloves or ordinary wire cutters for protection from electricity. Don't touch (or allow your clothing to contact) a wire, victim or vehicle that may be energized.