The act of a Good Samaritan in Cowichan Bay after a snowstorm last February could have cost the person’s life.
The Samaritan had come across a downed power line caught in a tree across a road and placed caution tape on the line to warn other motorists.
But an official from BC Hydro said the power line was live at the time and carried 14,000 volts of electricity, which is enough power to instantly kill anyone who came into contact with it.
“There’s no doubt that the person who put the caution tape on the line had good intentions,” said Jonny Knowles, the public safety lead for BC Hydro.
“But electricity has no forgiveness and that person was lucky not to have been injured. As storm season approaches again, we wanted to get the word out as to what people should do if they come across a downed power line.”
Knowles said the best strategy is the three “D”s; down, danger, dial.
He said that means if you encounter a downed power line, you should recognize that it’s a danger and dial 911 right away.
Knowles said that 911 should be called and not BC Hydro because it’s an emergency situation and 911 operators can work faster to contact first responders and BC Hydro crews to get them to the scene.
“You should then stay back 10 metres, which is about the length of a large school bus, from the power line, flash your lights and warn other drivers and pedestrians about the line and to stay away from it until emergency crews arrive,” Knowles said.
“You want to stay at least 10 metres away from the line because electricity dissipates the further it is away from its source.”
Knowles said that if you are unfortunate enough to be in a situation where a downed power line falls across your vehicle while you’re in it, you should stay in your vehicle until emergency crews arrive to avoid the possibility of being electrocuted.
He said you should also advise anyone trying to get to your vehicle to help you to stay at least 10 metres away.
Knowles said, however, that if you see fire or smoke coming from your vehicle, then you should exit, hop out onto the ground with your two feet together and make sure you don’t touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time.
He said touching the vehicle while stepping onto the ground at the same time could allow the electricity to use you as a conduit between the vehicle and the ground and you could be electrocuted.
“Once you’re on the ground, you should then shuffle away with your feet tight together for at least 10 metres,” he said.
Knowles explained that there is a higher risk of electrocution, with the electricity developing a current in your body, if your feet are different distances from the voltage source.