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With this already cold and dreary January weather, it’s possible that South Central Texas will experience rain and if cold enough, icy roads this winter. These hazards can make driving riskier than usual, and accidents could occur. Do you know what to do in the event that your vehicle comes into contact with a downed electricity pole? For many of us, that thought hasn’t even crossed our minds.

We care about the safety of our members and community and feel it’s important for you to know the proper protocol in the event that you do find yourself in a risky situation involving an electricity pole. Having this information could save your life. Follow these step by step directions if you ever find yourself in a power line emergency:

  1. Never assume a power line is dead
    • Always treat downed power lines as if they energized. Even if the line is not smoking, popping or showing any signs of life it is likely it could still be energized.
  2.  Stay in your car
    • Your car is the safest place to be if you run into an energized utility pole. Your vehicle could become energized, creating a hazardous situation.
  3. Warn others to stay away
    • If anyone touches the ground or grounded equipment and your car they could be injured. If you see someone stop to try to help you, warn them to stay away for their safety and have them call 9-1-1.
  4. Call 9-1-1 & GVEC
    • While sitting in your car, call 9-1-1 and then GVEC at 800.223.4832 to alert us to the fallen power line. Wait for the police, fire department and GVEC to arrive to the scene. A GVEC lineman crew will de-energize and ground the power line to make it safe for you to exit the vehicle.


In the event that your car starts to smoke or catch fire, you will need to exit the vehicle for your safety. Follow these directions to safely exit your car:

  1. Remove loose items of clothing
    • You need to make sure no part of your body or clothing is touching the vehicle and ground at the same time.
  2. Open the door & tuck your elbows into your stomach, keeping your hands clasped close to your chest
    • You do this to avoid touch potential. Touch potential is the risk of electrocution based on one part of the body touching an energized object, like a car, while simultaneously touching the ground. Electricity flows through the vehicle to the body and into the ground, which could cause you to be electrocuted.
  3. Jump out & away from the vehicle making sure that you land with your feet together
    • Try not to jump too far away, as you do not want to risk stumbling. Try jumping only a couple of feet, the goal is just to make sure you’re not touching the vehicle.
    • You do this to avoid step potential. Because the ground could be energized, an electrical current can flow through you if your feet are not close together. An electrical current can enter in one foot and out the other.
  4. Move away from your vehicle by using short shuffling steps
    • Because of the same step potential mentioned above, the further apart your feet are, the better the chances of getting shocked—so make sure to keep your feet together! Try to shuffle at least 35 feet away from your vehicle to be sure you are in a safe zone with no electricity.


Watch this video made by Puget Sound Energy to see this scenario play out when the proper steps are followed.


If you find yourself in this situation, or witness someone who is, call us immediately! We will send crews out right away to help you to safety. Remember, you can report downed power lines 24/7 by calling us at 800.233.4832.


Helpful OSHA Definitions:
Step potential is the voltage between the feet of a person standing near an energized grounded object.

Touch potential is the voltage between the energized object and the feet of a person in contact with the object.

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