Photos like the one above are being posted by the dozens on social media in the wake of a powerful storm that battered the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan recently. Ninety-mile-per-hour winds, heavy rain, hail, and tornado conditions uprooted hundreds of trees, and left about 15,000 homes without power. As the sky glowed yellow, my family retreated to our basement for safety. It was the first time ever.
In the hours after the storm, people began to venture outside to assess the damage. One friend admitted to taking a walk, reveling in the excitement. In our alley, a massive tree had been pulled from the ground and lay precariously across electrical wires by a neighbor’s home. Reports the next day cited hundreds of power lines down and a warning was released on social media from our local central dispatch: We really need people to stop walking around them, driving over them, approaching them, thinking about touching them, and thinking about driving over them....they are dangerous and should be treated as such.
As a Regional Education Specialist for the NFPA, it was a reminder that electrical safety goes beyond the proper use of extension cords and outdoor lighting. The Outdoor Electrical Safety Tip Sheet has some valuable advice.
- Have a professional tree cutting service trim branches that might fall on electric wiring.
- Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder outside.
- Keep the ladder at least 10 feet away from power lines.
- Never touch anyone or anything in contact with a downed wire. Power lines may be live; stay a safe distance away.
- Report downed wires to authorities right away.
In addition, NFPA’s community toolkit, Get Ready! Preparing Your Community for a Disaster, is a comprehensive guide the fire service and other first responders can use to reach the public. It includes a series of fact sheets on what to do in tornado conditions and when other disasters strike.