We are quickly approaching the peak of hurricane season. While the season spans six months, about 90 percent of storms occur between August and October. Before a storm, your biggest concern might be wind damage or flooding, but other dangers occur after a hurricane. Strong winds can cause power lines to break and fall. Even if they withstand the storm, trees and branches can also fall on lines. This can cause power outages until the electric utility company repairs the line, but the potential consequences are much more severe than the inconvenience of losing power. Electrical accidents are serious and frequently deadly.
Downed power lines can be deceptive. Because they’ve fallen onto the ground, many people assume that they are no longer operative. In reality, a downed wire can still be energized and if you come in contact with it the results may be tragic.
After Hurricane Zeta last year, a New Orleans man was electrocuted after touching a live power wire. The victim didn’t realize that the downed line was still carrying an electric current and tried to push it out of his way. Last September, during Hurricane Laura, a 25-year-old man from Natchitoches Parish died after coming into direct contact with a downed power line.
How to Stay Safe from Electrical Dangers After a Storm
The safest decision to make in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane or other extreme weather event is to stay put. If you have adequate food and water and no one in your home is injured, avoid unnecessary driving or walking around your neighborhood. If you do need to leave the house, don’t drive through floodwaters and stay away from backyards and fields to lessen the chances of coming into contact with a live wire. If you see a downed line, call the police and your electric utility company immediately. Because power lines are so dangerous, it’s essential to keep the following guidelines in mind — it could be lifesaving.
- If you notice that you’re walking near a downed line, shuffle away with small steps to minimize the risk of electrocution. Make sure your feet stay together on the ground.
- Don’t drive over downed power lines. Find an alternate route or turn around.
- Avoid touching fallen tree limbs or branches near power lines, as they may carry an electrical current.
- If a power line falls on your car, stay in the car and call 911. Loudly warn bystanders to stay away from your vehicle. If you can’t stay in your car until help arrives because it’s caught fire, jump out of the vehicle as far as you can and try to land on both feet. Don’t touch the car, and shuffle away, keeping both feet on the ground.
- When someone is injured due to a downed line, don’t touch the victim or get near them, or you could also end up experiencing an electric shock. Instead, call an emergency number for help.
Louisiana Electric Company Obligations
Electric utility companies are expected to “exercise the utmost care” when protecting people who may come into contact with their power supply lines. This means that they have to follow regulations and must properly maintain lines. They can only be positioned a certain distance to highways, train tracks, and streets. The specifications are highly technical and often change, making it easy for electrical companies to confuse victims and argue that their cases are invalid. These electrical utilities also respond to downed power lines and energized wires following a storm, sending trained electricians and linemen to mitigate the risk.
Electrical contact doesn’t always kill. Often, it leaves victims with severe problems like burns, seizures, and muscle contractions. They may be unable to return to work because of the seriousness of their injuries. Even in minor cases, the medical bills can quickly become insurmountable. An electrocution attorney can obtain damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and lost wages and hold electric companies accountable. If you’re injured because of a downed power line after a Louisiana storm, the New Orleans electrocution injury lawyers at Herman Herman & Katz can help. Call 504-581-4892 or fill out our free case review form for more information.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.