Know what to do with down, exposed power lines

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 5, 2016

OAKLAND COUNTY — Summer is often a time when people look to complete outdoor projects and make their yard look pristine.

During these projects is when an individual might accidentally nick a power or gas line on their property, as they didn’t know where the line was buried or they were unaware of an overhead line while clipping a tree.

Terry DeDoes, a public information director with Consumers Energy, said people should take some time to figure out where these lines are on their property.

“It’s very important; we ask customers (to) always take a moment before they start a project and identify where those overhead lines are, the service lines coming into the home,” he said.

“That’s very important for safety purposes to be aware of your surroundings, keep an eye out for overhead lines if you’re going to be, say, moving a ladder or cleaning a pool,” he said. “Anything where you might have a tool or some other device extending in the air.”

DeDoes said the same can go with digging projects on a person’s property.

“It might just be putting up a fence,” he said. “You might be installing a mailbox post, and you need to be aware there are underground gas lines.”

Both DeDoes and Berkley Fire Marshal Sgt. Corey Miller said a person should contact MISS DIG System Inc. before starting a project so that they can come out and mark any underground utilities on a person’s property.

“That way, the homeowner has to hand dig carefully near the areas where it’s marked out, Miller said. “If they don’t, they stand a chance of fracturing a gas line or an electrical line, which could either cause a massive gas leak or electrical shock to them.

“In terms of anything above ground overhead, if they’re trimming trees, one of the things they could do is come in contact with the power lines, and power lines are always searching for a ground to ground it out. Their body would then gain contact with the earth, which would create the ground, causing them electrical shock as well. If it’s a power line, they stand a good chance to, at a minimum, to have serious injury, if not death.”

With overhead lines, Miller said, “There’s really nobody to call for above-ground issues because you can see the wires, and the danger is doing any tree trimming within 15, 20 feet of electrical power lines. (That) really should be coordinated with the electrical company or a professional contractor.”

If there is ever a case where there is an exposed or down power line, Miller stressed that the individual should call 911 so public safety personnel can come out and ascertain what type of wire is exposed.

“They should treat any wire that they see as a live power line,” he said. “Even though it may be a cable wire, cable television or home line, the average person, homeowner, really can’t distinguish between the two.”

In a situation where the power goes out on someone’s property and it wasn’t because a line was cut, Miller said they should contact their energy providers, whether it’s DTE Energy or Consumers Energy, to make them aware.

“A lot of time, (the power company) is already aware of something,” he said. “They can give (the homeowners) some information on when the power will be restored or what the actual issue is.”

If it’s not something that’s been reported yet, Miller said, that alerts the company there is a problem in the area, and they’ll send out their technicians to further investigate the power issue.

“It could be a transformer that is gone but nobody knows about,” he said. “It’s not always a down power line that causes the outage. The power utilities are set up on a grid system, so if it went off on one street, it could affect a whole seven-block area.”