It's never safe to approach a power line that is on the ground! This is sometimes called a "downed" power line. Our protection system is designed to de-energize a line when its falls to the ground, but sometimes conditions affect our system's ability to know that a line has fallen to the ground.
Approaching fallen power lines can be fatal. It is hard to see fallen lines, and many times people report seeing a small fire in the grass and don’t realize that it is the energized line that is causing the fire. You don’t even have to touch a fallen line to be electrocuted. Electricity always wants to go to the ground and can reach you through the ground if you get close enough to a fallen live power line. Stay at least 30 feet away from any fallen line. Call the PUD immediately to report the location of any fallen line. If the fallen line is life-threatening – for example, causing a fire, sparking or touching an occupied car – also call 911.
Some people think its okay to drive across fallen lines, believing that the rubber in the car tires will protect them. While that is true to some extent as long as you stay inside the car, the greater danger is that the fallen line can become entangled in the car’s axle or wheels. This could cause you to pull down the pole or prevent you from being able to drive any further. Stay safe, stay far away from fallen power lines and do not drive over them unless it is a last resort.
Power lines that have fallen on your vehicle:
Anyone who touches the vehicle while standing on the ground may be shocked or electrocuted. If it is your vehicle, sit quietly inside and wait for help to arrive. If bystanders arrive, roll down the window and shout to them to stand at least 30 feet clear of the vehicle so they are not shocked or electrocuted and ask them to call for help. YOU ARE SAFE INSIDE THE VEHICLE, like a bird on a wire, AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT STEP OUT AND TOUCH THE VEHICLE AND GROUND AT THE SAME TIME. Remember, the electricity is not only traveling through the vehicle but is also traveling in the ground around the area.
If the vehicle is on fire and it is necessary to leave it, keeping both feet together, jump clear of the car, avoiding any lines that might be on the ground. Stay calm and jump carefully so that you don’t fall back against the car or touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time. Then shuffle with both feet together clear of the area, keeping both feet on the ground and touching at all times. Continue shuffling for at least 30 feet from the accident site.