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January 27, 2011 (San Diego)— Earlier this month in San Bernardino County, three members of a family were electrocuted when they came in contact with a downed power line owned by Southern California Edison. According to news reports, the husband was the first one to approach the downed line, which had fallen into the family’s backyard. His wife and son also were killed when they tried to rescue him from the energized line.


“This tragedy serves as a reminder that you should never touch a downed power line and always should assume that any power line is ‘live’ and electricity is flowing through it,” said David L. Geier, vice president of electric operations for SDG&E.


The company warns that electricity travels from a high voltage level to a low voltage location, which could be the ground. This is much like water that travels downhill. If a person touches a power line with their body or an object that can conduct electricity, the person and/or object becomes the path for the electricity to travel through to the ground. Such an incident can result in severe injury or death.


“If you encounter a downed power line, stay away from it and never touch the line or anyone or thing in contact with it,” said Geier. “Remain calm and immediately call 9-1-1 or SDG&E.”


Fallen electric lines are extremely dangerous. Report any downed lines to 9-1-1 and SDG&E immediately at 1-800-611-SDGE (7343). In an incident involving electric power lines, SDG&E offers the following guidelines:

Down or Broken Power Lines

If a person or piece of equipment comes in contact with an energized power line, or if a power line has fallen to the ground:
• Stay clear of the line and do not touch it.
• Call 9-1-1. Ask for the police department, fire department rescue service or SDG&E.
• Always assume that power lines are energized. If a person has come into contact with a power line, don’t touch the person or any equipment involved. The line may be still energized and could be extremely dangerous.
• Freeing a person or animal from energized power lines or equipment should only be attempted by a qualified electrical worker.


If a Vehicle is Involved

If a vehicle is involved and you are in it:
• Sit quietly until help arrives.
• Warn others not to touch the vehicle and direct them to call 9-1-1.
• If the vehicle is on fire and you must leave it, open the door or window and jump clear without touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Do not allow yourself to become a path of electricity from the vehicle to the ground.
• Be careful not to fall back against the vehicle and to avoid any wires on the ground.

Overhead Electric Lines Safety Tips

When you are working around electric overhead lines, follow these rules:
• Watch where you are going.
• Stay clear of the power line.
• Don’t touch the power line.
• Keep all machinery, equipment, and materials such as scaffolding tools, boat masts, fruit-picking poles, antennas, satellite dishes, pool skimmers handles, metal ladders, etc., and people at least 10 feet away from the lines. If it looks like the lines will be in your way, call SDG&E at 1-800-411-SDGE (7343). Depending on the nature of your job, SDG&E might be able to turn off the electricity, cover the lines, or even move them temporarily while you complete your work.
• Do not remove anything caught in electric lines, not even an animal. Instead, call SDG&E immediately.

Underground Electric Lines Safety Tips

• Hazards you don’t see, like underground electric lines, are easy to ignore or forget. Digging, drilling or blasting can damage these underground lines and cause electrocution or fire. To avoid an accident, call SDG&E’s Underground Alert Service at 1-800-227-2600. SDG&E will send someone to your site for free to show you exactly where our lines are buried.
• If you see an open SDG&E transformer or other piece of equipment, call SDG&E at 1-800-411-SDGE (7343) and we will investigate. Do not touch the equipment as this could lead to injury or death.


For other safety tips, please visit and go the Safety tab.



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One more safety tip

If you ever do get within a close radius of a downed power line, remember to remain very calm. Do not run or even try to walk away from it. Instead, while keeping both of your feet firmly on the ground, "shuffle" away from the point of contact. This will prevent the differential of voltage between your feet from electrocuting you from the ground up between your legs.