If you are in an accident, hit a utility pole and power lines fall on your car, what do you do? I’ll never forget responding to an accident just like this in Linden, New Jersey, where a father and son were trapped inside their car by live wires, making it unsafe for them to get out.
The Linden fire department was on the scene within minutes and advised the father to stay put until PSE&G arrived. In a time sensitive situation, this is exactly what needs to be done.
As soon as I arrived, I heard the wires buzzing and knew I had to act fast. I cut power to the line closest to the car and started to give the father and son directions so they could safely exit. A few minutes after they got out, the two other energized wires sparked and caught fire. Luckily, everyone was safe.
I’ve been a troubleshooter at PSE&G for 10 years and have encountered many incidents like this. Unfortunately, people often panic and place themselves in a deadly situation. They don’t realize that if you try to leave your car with one foot on the ground, your body becomes a pathway for the electricity.
Don’t let this happen to you. If wires fall on your car, always follow these steps:
- Call 911, and stay in your car until help arrives and the power is shut off by PSE&G.
- If you must get out because your car is on fire, jump as far away as possible with both feet landing on the ground at the same time. Once you clear the vehicle, shuffle or hop away with both feet together. Stepping with one foot at a time can lead to shock or electrocution.
- Never run away from the car. Electricity forms rings of different voltages. Running may cause your legs to “bridge” current from a higher ring to a lower voltage ring.
- If you’ve left the car, do not lean back, shut the door or reach back for another occupant. If the car is energized, touching it could create a path to the ground for the electricity to flow.
Remember, if you ever see a downed power line, always assume it’s “live.” Call PSE&G at 800-436-7734 or 911 to report it, and stay at least 300 feet away (two pole spans).
Although we can’t prevent car accidents from happening, we can make sure you know what to do in an emergency. These tips could save your life!
Daniel Torres, PSE&G Troubleshooter, Central Division