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Today is October 4, 2022

Editorial

Never let your guard up near overhead power lines

By Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan,
Executive Vice President/CEO
EPAs of Mississippi

The news photos and accounts of tornado victims in several south Mississippi counties last month were heartbreaking. Our prayers are with them as they begin the long recovery process.
    I was also distressed to see photos of people walking through city streets in the midst of downed power lines.
    Were the lines dead? Who knows? You can’t tell by looking!
    The best way to stay safe around any power line is to assume it is energized, and therefore extremely hazardous. Contact with an energized power line causes serious injury, and even death.
    Immediately after February’s severe storms, we activated our statewide emergency plan to get additional emergency crews to the hardest hit of our electric power associations. This work force labored long hours to restore electric service to more than 13,000 meters within two days.
    Working around electricity demands specialized skills and knowledge. One careless move can result in a tragedy. Our line workers not only train hard to work safely, they think about electrical safety every day.
    The rest of us should think about electrical safety too, and not only during natural disasters. Too often, our work, play and daily activities bring us too close to power lines.
    Working too close to power lines is not only deadly, it’s against Mississippi law. Commonly called the 10-Foot Rule, it requires the person responsible for work being done close to a high-voltage line to contact the electric utility so arrangements can be made for safety.
    Children (and adults) must be discouraged from climbing trees in contact with a power line. A tree’s high moisture content makes it an excellent conductor of electricity.
    If you are planning to build a new home, workshop, barn, swimming pool or other major outdoor project, you must make sure the structure is a safe distance from overhead (and underground) power lines.
    A line doesn’t have to be touched to spark danger. Electricity can jump, or arc, from a power line to a person or object that gets too close. When equipment comes into contact with power lines, it becomes energized and dangerous. If this happens at your work site, do not go near or touch the machine. Keep others away and call your electric utility immediately.
    If an object such as a scaffold must be moved near overhead power lines, appoint a worker whose sole responsibility is to watch the clearance between the power lines and the object—and to warn others if the minimum distance of 10 feet is not maintained.
    If you should be in a vehicle in contact with an overhead power line, do not leave the vehicle. Stay inside, avoid touching outside metal and wait for help. If you need to get out to summon help or because of fire, jump out without touching any wires or the exterior, keep your feet together and hop to safety.
    Please call your electric power association to report damaged power lines. And above all else, never assume a power line is dead.

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