On January 2nd we attended a motor vehicle incident on Central Road, at Strachan. The driver was OK, but the result was a downed power pole with the primary hydro line down across the road.
Upon arriving at the scene that day, one of our senior officers saw what he would expect to see on Hornby. Neighbours helping out someone in need, without thinking twice. However, what these helpful people didn’t realize was the severity of the potentially dangerous situation that they were putting themselves in.
Primary voltage lines from hydro poles can kill people dead. Really dead, full stop. And if a person were to manage to survive the high voltage shock, the results aren’t much more appealing, with life altering injuries such as lost limbs or third-degree burns.
We had a training course from senior BC Hydro personnel as a part of overall HIFR training last year and we learned just how dangerous hydro can be. It only takes a very small amount electricity to kill in various situations so the 14,400 volts on the top of our poles is not to be trifled with. Many people will think, “well I saw the line on the ground and it was obviously dead, as there were no sparks”. Or some people with a little more experience may say to themselves that the fuse must have blown and so the line is dead. Or perhaps they think because there is no power at the houses down the line, certainly it must be dead.
However, this just isn’t so. BC Hydro can try and re-energize the line at any time from a remote location. This can happen without warning. Another hazard is private generators that might be improperly hooked up to a house’s breaker panel and not be isolated from the hydro lines. The power from a house can travel back up a home owner’s lines and then through a transformer and become 14,400 volts all over again. BC Hydro crews have told me they live in fear of this and treat every line on the ground as though it were live and deadly. Phone lines, ground wires and the old cable TV system are also all to be avoided as they can cross a live primary line and carry deadly voltage too.
For members of the fire department the worst of it is we can’t help someone if they get themselves into a situation. We must stay ten meters back from hydro lines and we must protect ourselves from danger at all costs. We need to live to help another day.
Please protect yourself. If a line is down, treat it as though it can kill, because it just might. NEVER get closer than 10 meters from any downed wire. If you’re in your car, stay in your car as that’s the safest place for you. You just can’t assume that it’s safe to get anywhere near a downed wire.
As BC Hydro says on their website…..DOWN EQUALS DANGER.