Safe distance from downed power lines
A downed line is a danger, stay back and dial 911
Always assume that downed or damaged power lines are live, even if they're not sparking or making any sound.
If you come across a downed or damaged line, follow these steps:
- Stay back at least 10 metres (33 feet). That's about the length of a city bus.
- Dial 911 and let them know that a power line has fallen or is damaged.
- Keep others in the vicinity at least a bus-length away.
Why stay back 10 metres from a downed line?
When a power line touches the ground, the electricity will flow through the ground over a wide area – think of it like ripples in a pool of water. The voltage in the ground is very high at the point of electrical contact but as you move farther away, the voltage will drop off. At around 10 metres, the voltage drops to zero. This is why we recommend staying at least this length away.
It’s also important to keep away from any object that is in contact with a power line. This is because the electricity in the line will always seeks a path to the ground. This path might include a tree, a vehicle or a fence. These objects then become energized. If you touch the energized line or object, the electricity can flow through your body.
See our visual guide to fallen power lines.
If someone receives an electrical shock:
Don't touch a victim if you suspect that they may still be in contact with a source of electricity(such as a power line, transformer or electrical box). The current will travel through them into you. Stay back 10 metres and call 911.