Up, up and Away! Fly Drones Safely
In backyards and neighborhoods across the country, aviation enthusiasts are able to take to the sky thanks to drones–unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). As a result, there is an increasing need to ensure that these craft are flown safely, especially when around power lines and electrical equipment.
If a drone flies into a power line, it could cause power interruptions. In October of 2015, a man flew a drone into power lines, causing an outage affecting nearly 650 people in West Hollywood. If a drone does get caught in power lines or equipment, such as a substation, you should never attempt to retrieve the aircraft. Call the power provider to safely remove the drone. Drones can even result in downed lines, which is a dangerous safety hazard. Don’t touch the drone, power lines or anything in contact with the lines (such as a fence or tree limb) and call 911 to notify emergency personnel and the utility immediately.
Remember these simple, but vital, tips if you’re taking your drone to the skies:
- Before flying, check the drone for any damage and have it repaired.
- Never fly drones beyond your line of sight.
- Do not fly in bad weather conditions, such as low viability or high winds.
- Never fly recklessly. You could be fined for endangering other people or aircraft.
- Do not fly near substations.
The simplest tip is to look around. Know where power lines are and keep them in mind as you take the skies.
Know How to Survive Auto Accidents Involving Power Lines
If you ask someone, “What should you do if your car is in an accident involving power lines?” answers often range from the natural instinct to flee from danger to jumping from the car and rolling away. Unfortunately, in vehicle accidents that bring down power lines, our natural inclinations, such as these, can lead to tragic results.
The simplest answer as to what to do if your car hits a power pole, or otherwise brings a power line down, is to stay in your vehicle and wait until the local electric utility arrives on the scene and ensures that lines have been de-energized. If others stop to help, roll down the window and warn them not to touch the car or the power line. Ask them to phone 911 and contact the local electric utility immediately or if you should come upon or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the scene.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, tens of thousands of accidents each year occur where power poles are struck by cars or large equipment. Each one of these accidents has the potential to bring down power lines.
In the vast majority of those incidents, the safest place to remain is inside the car. Only in the rare instance of fire should people exit a vehicle. Then, they must know how to do so safely. Open the door and jump away from the vehicle so no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Make sure to jump with both your feet together so that your feet land on the ground at the same time, avoiding any downed lines. With both feet in constant contact with the ground, shuffle, don’t hop as hopping could make you unstable and fall. It’s vital to remember to never let your feet leave the ground as you shuffle away from the scene. If the car is driveable, you can also drive a short and safe distance away from the downed powerlines.
Remember, surviving the accident might not be enough to stay alive if there are power lines on your vehicle. Stay calm and if at all possible remain in your vehicle until utility crews can safely de-energize the lines.
• If you’re close enough to the storm to hear thunder, you’re most likely close enough to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter immediately.
• Do not seek shelter under trees, picnic or rain shelters or in open-frame vehicles.
• Don’t plug in or unplug anything electrical during the storm.
• Don’t use corded telephones – phone use is the number one cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States.
• Avoid contact with water, pipes, washers or dryers.
• If you can’t find shelter in a building or in a closed-frame vehicle, keep your feet together and sit on the ground away from water, high ground or open spaces.
• If a person is struck by lightning, call 911 and care for the victim immediately. You can not be harmed by touching the victim after he or she has been struck.
Know What’s Below: Call Before You Dig
Spring and summer bring with them many outdoor projects. If your planned projects include digging, like planting a tree, adding a deck or
bringing in a backhoe for trench work, always plan ahead so you’ll have a few extra days so the job can be done safely. Underground utilities, such as buried gas, water and electric lines, can be a shovel thrust away from turning a spring project into a disaster.
To find out whether utility lines are located on your property, simply dial 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to digging. Your call will be routed to a local “one call” center. Tell the operator the address of where you’re planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing, and the affected local utilities will be notified.
In a few days, a locator will arrive to designate the approximate position of any underground lines, pipes and cables with flags or marking paint so you’ll know the location of the infrastructure. Then the safe digging can begin.
Although many homeowners tackling do-it-yourself digging projects are aware of “Call Before You Dig” services, the majority don’t take advantage of the service. A national survey showed that only 33 percent of homeowners called to have their utility lines marked before starting their digging projects, according to the Common Ground Alliance, a federally mandated group of underground utility and damage prevention industry professionals.
And while light gardening typically doesn’t call for deep digging, other seemingly simple tasks like planting shrubs or installing a new mailbox post can damage utility lines. A severed line can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm diggers and potentially result in fines and repair costs.
Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. There’s no need: the 811 service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted and can help you avoid serious injury. For more information about local services, visit www.call811.com.
Safety with Outdoor Extension Cords
Whenever the weather gets nice, it’s a ritual to begin or continue yard work and ambitious outdoor projects. With the aid of outdoor extension cords, many people have already been mowing, trimming and tackling outdoor tasks for several weeks. When using these cords, it is extremely important to use them properly and safely to avoid hazards. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 400 people are electrocuted each year using electrical appliances and about 9 percent of electrocutions involve the use of lawn and garden equipment and ladders.
The most common question regarding outdoor extension cords is: Extension cords are classified for either indoor or outdoor use. What’s the difference between the two?
Simply but importantly, the insulation, or jacket, of an outdoor-rated extension cord is made of a tougher material, which is designed to withstand temperature changes, moisture, ultraviolet rays and some chemicals. While it’s fine to use an outdoor power cord indoors, never use an indoor-rated extension cord for an outside job— doing so could cause electric shock or create a fire hazard.
So whether you’re doing routine yard work or a special outdoor project, following these tips can help protect you, your family and home from harm.
- Use only weather-resistant heavy gauge extension cords marked “for outdoor use.” These extension cords have connectors molded onto them to prevent moisture from seeping in and the outer coatings are designed to withstand being dragged along the ground. In addition, these cords have added safeguards designed to withstand the outdoor environment.
- Examine cords before each use — damaged cords should be replaced immediately.
- Even though they’re rated for outdoor use, keep all outdoor extension cords clear of standing water and protected from the elements.
- Keep your work area clean and free from debris.
- Store cords inside when not in use. If left outside for long periods, the materials that make up the cord can break down and cause dangers such as sparking, fire or possible shock.
- Do not hang cords over items such as nails, beams and pipes which can cause stress on the covering.
- To prevent overheating, do not cover cords with cloth, paper or any other material while plugged in.
- Extend the cord fully while in use — coiled cords risk the danger of overheating.
Be mindful to keep outdoor wall receptacle covers closed when not in use because moisture causes hazards when you are using an extension cord outdoors. When moisture enters an electrical circuit, it can short out the circuit and cause an electrical fire or electrocution. Using these precautionary tips for outdoor extension cords can help you stay safe while being productive.
Splashing into Summer Safety
During the summer when you may be enjoying outdoor activities such as swimming, it is important to keep in mind that dangers are present whenever water can potentially come in contact with electricity. Review the following tips to avoid hazards and potentially serious injuries:
- Keep cords and electrical devices away from pools.
- Never handle electrical items when you are wet.
- Don’t allow power cord connections to become wet.
- Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
- Use outlet covers on outdoor receptacles near swimming pools.
- Electrical devices such as circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs and switches can malfunction when water and residue get inside. Replace those that have been submerged.
- Indoor outlets or electrical cords that have become immersed due to flooding may energize water, a potential deadly condition.
- If a switch or an appliance has become wet or submerged, have an electrician check the house wiring and the appliance to make sure it is safe to use before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance.
- When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electric shock.
- Boating is another seasonal activity. Sailboats often have masts of 30 feet or more, which are dangerous when they come into contact with overhead power lines. Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines to help prevent lethal electrical hazards.
Electrical safety awareness near water can help keep summer outdoor activities from becoming disasters for everyone.