Power lines bring electricity from generating plants to our communities and into our homes. They are a vital part of the electrical transmission and distribution system. They can also be dangerous.
Here are some basic rules about power line safety:
- Never climb power poles or transmission towers. A typical overhead distribution line has 7,200 volts per wire. Voltages on major transmission lines are as high as 500,000 volts. Both can deliver a deadly shock.
- Never climb trees near power lines. The human body is an excellent conductor of electricity and you could become its path from the lines to the ground.
- Stay away from downed power lines. Always assume a downed power line is live and life-threatening. Keep children and pets away from downed lines. Do not attempt to remove a person or animal caught in power lines. Do not attempt to remove tree limbs or any other object from a downed line. If you see a downed line, call Mississippi Power at 1-800-532-1502 and call 911 to have the downed line barricaded until it can be repaired. Warn others to stay away.
- Never drive over a downed line or under a low-hanging line. Beware of downed lines touching a vehicle. Stay away from the vehicle and the line. If a power line hits your car while you're inside, stay put and wait for help. If the car catches fire, then jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time. Shuffle away keeping both feet on the ground.
- Keep ladders, antennas, kites and poles away from power lines. Weatherproofing on overhead wiring is not insulation. If you are holding any of these items and they come into contact with a power line, you could receive an electrical shock.
- Never go into a substation.You should never enter or break into a substation or get too close to equipment because your life will be in danger.
- Boats - Keep boat masts away from power lines.
- Cords - Don't place appliance cords where they will come into contact with the stove or other heated surfaces. Don't hang appliance cords over countertops so they won't be accidentally pulled down.
- Ladders - Exercise caution when using ladders, painting, pruning or cleaning near a service drop. (A service drop is where the wiring comes into a house or building at the meter.) Weatherproofing on the overhead wiring is not insulation. This covering can become brittle and cracked, exposing you to electrical contact.
- Outlets - Look for outlets that have loose fitting plugs, exposed wires or broken plates. Have them fixed by a qualified electrician. Use safety covers on all outlets accessible to children.
- Poles - Don't swing, climb or run into guy wires supporting utility poles. Report damaged guy wires to the power company.
- Pools - Don't use electrical appliances near pools; don't route extension cords in the vicinity of pools; don't raise pool maintenance or rescue poles into overhead power lines. Pools use an underground grounding grid to prevent shock. If you feel a tingling sensation when getting in or out, call a qualified electrician.
- Shoes - Avoid damp or wet areas when using electrical power tools outdoors. Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes when working with electrical appliances outdoors. NEVER use electrical equipment when barefooted.
- Trees - Don't climb trees near power lines. Keep balloons, kites, fishing lines and aluminum poles away from overhead lines. The lines are not insulated and you could create a path to ground by touching them.
- Inspect - Power tools and cords should be inspected routinely. If they have broken or frayed insulation or cause shocks, smoke, emit strange odors, or spark -- replace or repair the tool.
- Ground - Check for grounding. Make sure all 3-wired tools and appliances with flexible cords are properly grounded.
- Operate - Observe tagout and lockout procedures for heavy electrical equipment. Turn off power tools before unplugging; turn switches off before plugging in. Do not cut off ground prongs. This eliminates the protection grounded cords afford to you.
- Overload - Check the amperage rating for an extension cord and make sure it is greater than, or equal to, the tool you will be using. You can determine this by comparing the rating labels on both the cord and tool you intend to use.
- Extension cords - Never substitute for permanent wiring. Keep slack in the cords. Tape when running across traffic areas. Avoid pinch points at closed doors or windows. Don't staple or nail extension cords to walls. Keep away from oil or corrosive material.
- Water - Before using an extension cord outside or in a wet area, confirm that the cord is rated for outdoor use and make sure the cord is connected to a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.
- Amperage - Make sure the amperage rating for an extension cord is greater than, or equal to, the tool you will be using. You can determine this by comparing the rating labels on both the cord and tool you intend to use.
- Branch circuits - Never overload branch circuits by operating more appliances than the circuits were designed to handle. Remember: several outlets are usually connected to one branch circuit!
- Fuses/breakers - Use correct size fuses and breakers for circuits. Size refers to a circuit's amperage rating. If you don't know the rating, have a qualified electrician identify and label the sizes to be used.
- Trips - Disconnect immediately if an appliance blows a fuse, trips a breaker or emits sparks or sizzling sounds. Discard the appliance or have it repaired.
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
What are they? - GFCIs work by detecting slight variations in current. If a short occurs, a GFCI will trip in a fraction of a second. There are three types of GFCIs:
Circuit breaker-type GFCIs installed by qualified electricians go directly into an electrical panel to replace ordinary circuit breakers.
Receptacle-type GFCIs installed by qualified electricians resemble ordinary electrical outlets and can be tested and reset at the outlet.
Portable GFCIs can be plugged directly into any receptacle and do not require special knowledge to install.
Where to use? - Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters should be installed where water is present (such as in bathrooms and kitchens), or where easy contact with the ground can be made. However, even with GFCIs, you must still exercise extreme caution around water.
Test - Never modify or bypass a GFCI. Test GFCIs periodically to see that they are working properly. Do this by pressing the red "Test" button on each GFCI.
Call us before you work. Learn more about the laws and guidelines for working near power lines.
Protection from contact with overhead wiring is provided by ISOLATION - or distance - not by insulated covering. Operators of equipment like backhoes, dump trucks, bucket trucks, concrete pumpers, and booms and cranes should be especially conscious of overhead wiring. The hazard of contact is also posed to workers on scaffolding or those handling or moving any type of long tool or equipment like sections of metal pipe.
If your equipment contacts power lines, electricity may contact with the ground. If so, the earth becomes energized in a large area around the contact. The strength of the electrical charge decreases from the point of contact. This is why it is vital not to separate your feet since there may be a difference in the electrical charge under each foot. This difference could create an electrical path through your body.
If you make contact with a high voltage line while operating heavy equipment take the following precautions:
- Stay on the equipment, if possible, until help arrives
- Avoid touching any metal parts, and
- Try to break the contact by moving the machine.
If it is absolutely necessary to exit the machine, jump as far out as possible and make sure you do not fall back against the machine. Land with both feet together and hop or shuffle your feet a few inches at a time making sure to never break contact with the ground or cause separation between your feet. Don't walk or run. Get as far away as possible.
- Combustibles - Keep area around electrical equipment clear of combustibles such as sawdust, paper, cardboard, and flammable liquids.
- Escape - Know locations of emergency exits and fire escapes and know the escape routes from your work area. Fire escape plans should be posted and exits clearly marked.
- Extinguishers - Know where the nearest fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Only Class C extinguishers are safe to use on energized electrical equipment.
- Maintenance - Prevent oil and dirt buildup on electrical appliances. This situation can cause electrical equipment to overheat and short circuit. When buildup does occur, shut off electrical equipment and unplug its power supply. Use only clean dry rags and brushes and follow manufacturer's instructions.
- Overloads - Electrical fires are frequently caused by overloaded equipment and circuits. This can cause insulation to burn, create sparks, and leave exposed wires. Don't overload electrical equipment by attempting to do heavier jobs than the equipment can handle.
- Repair - Shut off all electrical equipment that produces odd sounds, odd smells or sparks. Have it checked by a qualified technician. Tag and remove hard wired equipment from service so that it cannot be accidentally energized while it is being repaired or replaced.
Stay away from downed lines. If you ever see a wire on the ground, assume it is energized. Report a downed wire to the power company, or call 911.
One of the most potentially hazardous electrical situations in industrial plants and on construction sites is accidental contact with overhead or underground wiring. Protection from contact with overhead wiring is provided best by ISOLATION, or distance. The covering on some overhead lines is weatherproofing; it is not intended to provide insulated protection from contact. This plastic coating may become brittle, making it easy to crack and fall off.
Operators of equipment like backhoes, dump trucks, bucket trucks, concrete pumpers, booms and cranes should be especially conscious of overhead wiring. The hazard of contact is also posed to workers on scaffolding or those handling or moving any type of long tools or equipment, like sections of metal pipe.
Before you begin any work, including construction, within 10 feet of an overhead electrical line carrying more than 600 volts, you should check your state laws, regulations and guidelines, and federal standards.
If you're working around high voltage lines anywhere in the Mississippi Power service territory, please call Mississippi Power at 1-800-532-1502.
If you are digging, call Mississippi One Call by dialing 811.
For more information about Mississippi One Call, visit: http://www.ms1call.org/about
Electricity is an important part of our lives. It's all around us, every day. It makes our lives more comfortable and our jobs easier. In fact, we sometimes take electricity for granted and forget it is a powerful force that deserves our respect, with the potential to cause serious injury and sometimes even death.
We want you to have all the information you need to safely live and work where electricity is present. Our electrical safety program can help you learn more about how to stay safe around electricity.
Safety City is an electrical safety program for students, youth groups, emergency personnel, contractors, adult groups and other organizations. Safety City uses a model to demonstrate real-life scenarios involving electricity and explain how to stay safe in these situations.
Safety City is free and can be arranged to come to your location (within the areas we serve). Presenters will bring everything they need to engage the group in an active demonstration of electrical safety. All you need to provide is an electrical outlet.
Safety City may be scheduled at a date and time convenient for your group by calling 228-865-5231. The program typically lasts 30 - 60 minutes, depending on questions.
Stay away from downed lines. If you ever see a wire on the ground, assume it is energized. Report a downed wire to the power company here and call 911.