Ask Bob – October 2022

Bob Pierce headshot

Bob Pierce answers questions about energy efficiency, consumer products, and cooperative governance. He is Clearwater Power’s Chief Operating Officer and welcomes your questions on our Ask Bob page.

Q: I am trying to explain to my friend why it is important to stay away from down power lines even if they appear to be off. Would you help me educate them?

A:Yes! This is a very important message. There have been times where a well-meaning person or even a first-responder tries to help by grabbing ahold of a high-voltage power line that they are sure is off, to move it out of the way. It is important to realize that getting shocked by a high-voltage line could be fatal and it’s not worth taking chances.

If it’s down, it’s dangerous. Stay away even if you think it’s off – even if you know it’s off:

  1. Electricity doesn’t always crackle and arc. You can never be sure a line is off by looking at it or listening to it. There are often no sights or sounds that would indicate if the line is energized.
  2. Even if it is off, it can come back on unexpectedly. Our grid has automatic reclosers that can switch power back on multiple times to try and clear a fault. You don’t want to be near the power line when this happens. A generator could also energize the line. Improperly installed generators can back feed through the transformer and actually cause high-voltage power to flow down the power line.

Stay away from any downed power line and keep others away also. Call 911 and they will contact the proper utility. Always assume the line is energized until a lineman can get there and make the area safe.