At DTE, there’s nothing more important to us than safety – your safety, the safety of our employees, and the safety of communities where we live and serve. Our work is rooted in our philosophy of 200% accountability (100% for ourselves and 100% for those around us) and every process we create, and every action we take starts and ends with ensuring everyone goes home safe.

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and as the weather continues to warm up, and we continue to enjoy the outdoor activities spring and summer in Michigan bring, now’s a great time to take a refresher course in staying safe around the energy grid. Electricity is so deeply embedded in our lives – from power lines in our yards to juice to keep our smartphones running – that we often take it, and the safety hazards it can create, for granted.

Since power lines are a leading case of electrical fatalities, we’ll focus on staying safe around the energy grid in this article. Click here for more information about electrical safety inside your home.

  1. Stay 20 feet away from power lines and other electrical equipment.

Whether a power line is hanging overhead as it should, or the line fell due to weather or a falling tree branch, etc., be sure to stay 20 feet away – about the length of an ambulance – from it and anything it’s touching, or could touch. And since warmer weather often brings pastimes like kite and drone flying, it’s extremely important you’re mindful of, and avoid, the energy grid when enjoying these activities. Failing to do so could not only create a public safety hazard, it could cause power outages and other electric reliability issues in your community as well.  

  1. Look up to know what’s down.

If conditions likely to damage the electric grid – e.g., high winds, falling tree branches, etc. – occur, be mindful of the possibility of downed power lines. Like a snake in the grass, downed wires can be hidden beneath vegetation, debris or other objects, so looking up to identify potentially deadly safety hazards is your best bet.

Keep in mind, not all downed power lines arc, spark, smoke or buzz, so even if a line appears to be lifeless, you should still consider it to be energized and deadly. Click here to learn more about what to do if you spot a downed power line.

  1. Be mindful of your service drop – your home’s high-voltage connection to the energy grid.

While this line often runs closer to the ground than the ones that run between utility poles, it’s carrying the same amount of high-voltage electricity, and it’s critical that you avoid it at all costs. Always carry ladders, pool skimmers or any other object horizontally when you’re near a service line, and ensure you’re never close enough to it to touch it with any part of your body or any object that could turn you into an electrical circuit. The result could be fatal. Read more about service drop safety.

  1. Know what to do in the event a power line falls on your vehicle, or on a vehicle nearby.

While this situation may seem unlikely, distracted driving – a leading cause of vehicle accidents in the U.S. – often causes this type of scenario, so knowing how to respond is extremely important.

  • Stay in place or inside your vehicle unless you see fire or smoke, or another safety hazard.
  • Call 911.
  • Tell bystanders to stay away. Honk your horn, roll your window down and yell to avoid putting Good Samaritans in a dangerous situation.
  • In the event of fire, smoke or another safety hazard, exit the vehicle, but ensure you don’t touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time. Jump out of the vehicle with your feet together and shuffle or hop away to safety.

Check out our blog post for a more in-depth explanation of what to do in the event you’re trapped by a downed power line. 

  1. Do not trim trees near power lines.

The warmer months are the perfect time to catch up on home improvements and repairs – inside and outside. If a tree growing near power lines that run between utility poles is creating a public safety hazard near your place, report it to us; if trees are growing near the lines, but aren’t causing an immediate safety issue, they’ll be trimmed in accordance with our ongoing maintenance schedule.

Please note: trees growing near your service drop are your responsibility. In the event a tree around your service drop needs to be trimmed, we strongly recommend you contact a professional tree-trimming service to complete the job. Your service drop is an extremely dangerous high-voltage power line that should be avoided at all costs. Don’t risk your life by attempting to trim a tree near this line yourself.

Bonus tip: if you’re landscaping or doing any other work or improvements that require digging, be mindful of underground electric and natural gas lines. Always contact MISS DIG before you break ground, regardless of how big or small your project is.

Visit EmpoweringMichigan.com for more information.

Interested in learning more about how you can keep yourself and others safe around electricity? Visit EmpoweringMichigan.com, and talk about electric safety with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Doing so could save lives.