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Knowledge gap: Many B.C. parents unaware of electrical safety rules

VANCOUVER: New BC Hydro research finds many B.C. parents are unaware of how to stay safe around electricity.

A recent survey1 conducted on behalf of BC Hydro finds over two thirds of B.C. parents have not talked to their kids about electrical safety, often because they are not aware of how to stay safe themselves. For example, 76 per cent of B.C. parents with kids under the age of 18 could not identify how far they should stay from undamaged overhead power lines in their neighbourhood (three metres), and 58 per cent could not identify the distance they should stay away from a downed or damaged power line (10 metres).

Should they come across a downed line, most parents do not know who to call, and some are unaware that there is often no way to tell if a downed power line is live. In fact, many (30 per cent) think a live line will always make a buzzing sound, be smoking/sparking (27 per cent) or glowing (8 per cent). And while most parents (57 per cent) do know to always keep their children's balloons, kites and similar toys away from overhead power lines, a large number do not (43 per cent). In fact, each year balloons, kites and even drones come into contact with BC Hydro lines, causing major power outages and putting the public and BC Hydro crews at risk.  There is even less understanding about what to do in the event of a motor vehicle accident involving a power line. In fact, over half do not know the correct safety procedures to follow should they have to exit a vehicle in an emergency.

This gap in knowledge can in part be explained by over a quarter of parents admitting they were never taught about safety precautions around power lines and electrical equipment. That is likely why only about 30 per cent have discussed electrical safety with their children. Those who have discussed electrical safety with their children are most likely to say they were taught in school, highlighting the importance of electrical safety education in the classroom.

Public safety is a top priority at BC Hydro where electrical safety is promoted year-round through several channels, including safety programs for elementary and secondary students, community events, and free training for trades workers and first responders. Every year, BC Hydro's Electrical Safety Week reaches hundreds of classrooms and thousands of students in schools across the province, raising awareness about electrical safety, so children have the tools they need to know how to stay safe when they encounter electrical hazards. Knowing what to do in a dangerous situation could prevent injury or even save a life. This year, Electrical Safety Week runs from May 8 to 14.

BC Hydro is also reminding British Columbians to keep in mind these potentially life saving rules around electricity:

  • A fallen power line is dangerous even if it is not smoking, sparking, or making a buzzing sound. Stay back at least 10 metres (the length of a bus) and call 911 immediately to report.
  • Also remember to stay at least three metres away from working power lines – the length of a standard four-door car.
  •  Watch for power lines in your area – never carry balloons or fly kites near power lines and always securely fasten balloons or inflatables to make sure they will not be picked up by a sudden gust of wind and contact a power line.
  • Never contact or climb transmission towers, power poles, pad mounted transformers (they look like green or gray boxes) or other electrical infrastructure.
  • Do not trespass near BC Hydro facilities such as dams, powerhouses, or substations and respect all safety signage at these sites.
  • In the event of a motor vehicle accident involving electrical equipment, BC Hydro encourages staying in the car and calling 911. A BC Hydro crew will isolate and ground the damaged equipment to make it safe for first responders to rescue you. If staying in the car is not an option because of emergency, jump out and away from the vehicle, taking care to land with feet together and shuffle at least 10 metres away – the length of a bus- to avoid getting injured.

BC Hydro offers free resources for teachers, including information about electrical safety, conservation, sustainability, and other energy related topics on its Power Smart for Schools online hub. Visit

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468

1 Online survey conducted by Majid Khoury of 600 Parents of 18-year-olds and younger, in British Columbia from April 18 to April 20, 2023. Margin of Error of +/-4%.