What to do when you see a downed power line

Winter Safety - Down. Danger. Dial

A downed power line may be on the ground or caught in a tree.

You should always consider this wire to be live. Keep, or shuffle, at least 10 metres away.

Calling 911 ensures that first responders can secure the area fast – and they'll call
us immediately.


It happened in B.C. — Stories from our team


Close up of power line technician

Fortunately no one was injured. It could have been so much worse.
Perry – Field manager

After a large branch fell on one of our power lines, branches and downed wire blocked a road. Not willing to wait for emergency vehicles to arrive, a driver picked up the wires and threw them off the road.

"We're lucky that there wasn't an ambulance taking that gentleman away right now," recalls Perry, thankful that the lines weren't energized. "You'd think people would be more careful around electricity and power lines, but I've lost track of how many times our crew gets called in because a member of the public interacted with a downed line."



I make sure I follow the rules because I want my son to. It would devastate me if he was injured based on something I reinforced.
Will – Power line technician

Power line technicians often meet people as they're picking up and moving power lines, cleaning up a tree near a downed wire, or standing inches away rather than at least 10 metres. Will notes, "We don't go near a downed line unless self-protection or clearance is in effect, grounds are in place – and we work around electricity every day."

Side profile close up of power line technician



Power line technicians working on downed power line

Downed power lines aren’t always sparking, smoking or making a buzzing sound, but they could still be live. And the ground around the downed line could be energized.
Jonny – Public safety lead

Because a live line doesn’t spark, buzz, or move around, it’s easy to not recognize the danger. When a wire is down there may be an outage, and many people assume that the power is off. If it's down, it's a danger. Stay back at least 10 metres and call 911.




How to stay — or get — 10 metres away


10 metre infographic

A 10 metre distance is equivalent to one city bus, three small cars, or 40 people standing in a line.

Remember, if you're closer than 10 metres you should shuffle heel to toe with your shoes always touching. This will take about 60 seconds.

If your vehicle hits a power pole, there are a few extra steps to keep in mind.

Learn more


Why do I need to call 911?

Dialing 911 ensures that the area will be secured, and BC Hydro will be called immediately to send our first available crew who can work on the assessment and repair.

Downed power line panoramic image