Power line on and near parked cars

What to do if a power line falls on your vehicle

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Imagine that suddenly the car you’re riding in swerves to miss another car and you strike a utility pole. When your airbags finally settle and you come to the realization you were in an accident, you look up and there is an electrical wire laying across your vehicle.

What do you do?

The most important step in safety is knowledge. Knowing what to do when you’re in the midst of an emergency could potentially save your life and/or the lives around you.

So if you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s what to do:

  • Assume it’s live. Always assume that any downed wire is live and dangerous. Do not attempt to touch or remove the wire, and warn outsiders to remain at least 20 feet away.
  • Stay put. If your car is inoperable, stay where you’re at. Unless there is a secondary emergency, such as the car being on fire, it is safer to stay inside the vehicle than trying to exit. Keep reading to find out what to do if you do need to exit your vehicle.
  • Call 9-1-1. Let the 9-1-1 dispatcher know that you were in a vehicle accident and that you have a downed line on your vehicle. The authorities will notify DTE Energy, or the energy company in that area, and line workers will be sent to the scene to shut off power to the wire, ensuring that other first responders, such as paramedics and fire, can safely access you. You can also contact DTE Energy directly using its 24/7 downed wire emergency line, 800.477.4747. You can call this number if you see or suspect a downed wire anywhere within the DTE Energy service territory. Consider plugging this in with your other emergency contacts so it’s there if you ever need it.
  • Warn others. Witnesses may not notice the downed line and could be coming to help. Warn them to stay at least 20 feet away and to keep other people and pets away from the scene as well.

What to do if you do need to exit:

If there is another emergency posing a greater threat, like your car is on fire, you may need to exit your vehicle. However, you have to be very cautious when doing so:

  • Get yourself ready. The goal is to avoid touching the car and the ground at the same time. Remove any loose clothing, open your car door, step onto the metal frame of the car with your feet close together and tuck your hands and elbows into your chest and stomach.
  • Jump with feet together. When jumping, keeping feet together is more important than how far you jump. If your feet are apart from each other, it could create a bridge, allowing electricity to run through you. So jump as far as you can from the vehicle without jeopardizing your stance.
  • Shuffle or hop to safety. Using the same concept as above, don’t become a circuit! Shuffle your feet in slow and short strides or hop with feet together until you are at least 20 feet away from the wire.

We never know when an accident may happen. So stay informed, be prepared and know how to react should you find yourself in that situation.