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5 ways to save a life this winter

Dave with a sign by a street
We've all learned to stop, drop and roll, but what about down, danger, dial? A downed line doesn't always look the way you think, and knowing these five things could save your life, or someone else, this winter.

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader (about when to call 911)?

How old were you when you learned the basics of stop, drop, and roll? What about how to help someone who might be choking? You probably learned all the reasons to call 911 when you were a young child (if you were raised here in B.C.).

Or did you?

Although we all know to call if we see a fire, car accident, or other emergency, not everyone knows that downed or damaged power lines should also have you calling 911.

That's concerning: a downed line can be live, even if it's not smoking, sparking, or making a buzzing sound. Anyone who comes near an energized line (or objects nearby such as cars) could become electrified.

That means a fallen power line is an emergency – and in emergencies, you should always call 911.

The good news is that while there may be some work to do when it comes to spreading the word to adults, a lot of B.C. kids are learning what they need to know in the classroom. In 2018, over 200 classrooms in 70+ B.C. communities participated in our Electrical Safety Day quiz, reaching over 10,000 students.

That's what Dave found when he hit the streets to see what people knew about when to call 911.

When it comes to downed lines, looks can be deceiving. Five things to know:

Even if you know to stay 10 metres back and call 911 when you see a power line on the ground, winter and storm season in B.C. can bring other dangers that you may not recognize. These five things could keep you or someone else safe:

  1. A fallen power line doesn't have to look energized to be live – and can electrify the ground and objects nearby. To stay safe, stay back at least 10 metres at all times (that's about the length of a yellow school bus), and yes, dial 911.
  2. A broken crossarm? That's an emergency too. Our power lines and power poles are safe – but when storms and other factors damage power equipment, that can be hazardous. Always call 911 if you see a broken crossarm or pole.
  3. Just because car tires are rubber doesn't mean they'll work as insulation against electricity. Let's get this out of the way right now: yes, your car tires are made of rubber, just like some types of equipment and wires are insulated. No, that doesn't mean you can safely drive over a fallen power line. Yes, some people think you can. Quiz your friends and family this winter season and make sure they know: you should never try to drive over a downed line.
  4. If you have to, do the safety shuffle. Slick, icy, and wet roads can bring more motor vehicle accidents in fall and winter. And some of those accidents involve power poles or transformers. If your vehicle hits one, and you can safely stay in your vehicle, do so. But if you have to get out, you'll need to carefully jump out and then shuffle to avoid conducting electricity. See how to do it safely in our new video.
  5. We all love trees, but not on power lines. One last thing you may not think of as an emergency: a tree on a power line. Your first thought might be to call BC Hydro because of a power outage, but trees can actually conduct electricity if they're touching a line. That means it's dangerous for a few reasons: it can electrify the ground and endanger people and vehicles passing by, or it could start a fire. If you see a tree on a power line this winter, stay 10 metres back, and dial 911.

When in doubt, remember down, danger, dial

If we can leave you with one message for the winter season, it's down, danger, dial. If your friends or family don't know the steps to stay safe, take a moment to share the message with them.

Learn more about how to stay safe around downed lines this storm season.