Stronger poles and wires and more comprehensive tree clearing are making our power grid more resistant than ever to storms, but lines occasionally come down when the weather turns nasty.

Wires also can fall when poles are hit in traffic accidents.

The first thing to do about any downed power line is to stay away from that wire and anything touching it. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, the ground around power lines may be energized up to 35 feet away. That’s more than 10 yards on a football field.

You can’t tell if a wire is live, or energized, just by looking at it. Assume all downed lines are live, no matter how they appear. Receiving an electrical shock can be deadly.

Some other downed wire safety tips from ESFi include:

  • Don’t try to move a downed power line or anything else in contact with it by using another object such as a broom or stick. Non-conductive materials like wood or cloth can conduct electricity if even slightly wet.
  • Be careful not to touch or step in water near a downed power line.
  • Do not drive over downed power lines.
  • If your car comes in contact with a downed power line while you are inside, stay in the car. Honk your horn to summon help, but direct others to stay away from your car. If you must leave your car because it’s on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with both the car and the ground at the same time. Shuffle away from the car.