Project Main Details
Avista’s operates more than 2,100 miles of transmission and distribution lines for electricity—some visible up on utility poles, others buried underground.
For reliability and public safety, Avista routinely monitors and maintains these lines to meet extensive federal and state regulations.
Even so, it’s impossible to make any infrastructure 100% fail proof.
Sometimes vehicles crash into electric facilities causing hazards.
Unexpected events such as high winds, ice storms, and fires also cause problems—as do larger disasters like earthquakes and floods.
Each situation is unique, so it’s smart to learn electricity safety before an actual emergency occurs.
When responding to any emergency involving electrical hazards, start by protecting yourself.
Remember: electricity seeks all paths to ground, and the human body makes a good conductor. It only takes the current used by a small holiday tree light to kill.
When arriving on an emergency scene, always take note of your surroundings.
Do not drive overtop downed lines,
And never park underneath power lines. Nearby damaged poles could bring down additional wires.
Also watch out for overhead lines when raising ladders or buckets.
Don’t become preoccupied or you, too, could end up being shocked or electrocuted.
If you come across a downed power line, call Avista before you act.
Don’t touch or attempt to move the line—even if it’s in contact with a victim.
Wait for us to de-energize line, or you could also end up being shocked or electrocuted.
Move a safe distance away and keep the public back at least 300 feet.
Conductive objects near a fallen line, such as guardrails, fences and water, may be dangerously energized.
Dry ground around a high voltage line can be deadly, too.
Electricity travels through dirt in waves, much like the ripples a rock makes when thrown into a pond. This creates a dangerous step potential where, if you stand on separate waves, electricity will pass through your body, entering one foot and exiting the other.
Rubber boots and gloves will NOT protect you. Neither will pike poles, as they can conduct electricity due to dirt or carbon buildup.
Electricity will easily pass through dry branches and wood, as well.
The gloves and equipment Avista uses are designed and continually tested for electric safety and can only be considered safety equipment when used by trained workers.
So if you find a downed line, always call Avista first.
Tell us the nearest house address or street intersection. Or give us the GPS coordinates to find you.
In a pinch, you can provide the number stenciled on the nearest undamaged pole or pad mount transformer. But never walk under a damaged line to read a pole number. It’s not worth risking your life.
We’ll act quickly to help.
If you are called to an accident scene where a vehicle has knocked down or damaged a power pole or other electrical equipment, always assume that the vehicle—AND THE GROUND SURROUNDING IT—is energized.
Wires trapped under the vehicle could also suddenly spring free and hit you.
So keep your distance and only do a visual check for people inside the vehicle.
If you see occupants, keep them calm and have them remain in the vehicle.
If they touch the vehicle and ground at the same time, they could incur electrical contact.
They’ll be safer inside the vehicle until Avista arrives.
Only when lives are in extreme danger, due to fire or smoke, should you have people exit the vehicle.
When this is the case, instruct the occupants to open the vehicle door and get into position to jump out.
Instruct them to jump away from the vehicle without stumbling or falling, and to land feet together for only one point of contact with the ground.
Then tell them to hop or shuffle away from the vehicle keeping their feet together—again to avoid step potential.
If more than one occupant jumps from the vehicle, also tell them not to touch each other.
Have them keep moving until they reach a safe distance.
Use the same safety and rescue procedures when a vehicle accident involves one of our pad-mount transformers for underground lines.
Always assume both the box and the vehicle are energized.
Once more, only if there is a fire or extreme danger from smoke should you instruct occupants to exit the vehicle.
And again follow the same safety procedures to help them escape.
Encountering a potentially hazardous situation is also possible if one of Avista’s underground electric lines become exposed.
This happens most often when third-party individuals or construction crews are digging with a backhoe.
That’s why it’s the law for everyone to call 811 at least two work days before digging—so someone can come locate and mark the lines ahead of time.
If you find an unburied line, treat it with the same respect as a downed power line. Call Avista for help.
Emergencies involving electrical hazards can be compounded if a fire breaks out.
Whenever electrical fires occur, do not try to handle them yourself.
If you get a call that a power pole is on fire, let it burn. Make no attempt to extinguish the flames until the appropriate power company assures you it is safe.
Directing strait streams of water near the top of a pole could kill you.
Burning beams and energized wires could also fall.
Electricity can arc near transmission lines so also avoid ladders and elevating equipment.
Keep in mind that electricity can be conducted by rain, smoke, fog and even the water mist from fire hoses.
Fire fighters should only attempt to extinguish flames that are confined to the base of a power pole.
Avista recommends using dry chemicals or other non-conducting agents to extinguish the fire at the base of the pole.
You may also extinguish the flames with water using an intermittent spray as long as no electrical issue is noted or the appropriate power company has verified the line is de-engerized and safe.
When responding to a fire at one of Avista’s electric substations, however, don’t attempt to put out the flames using water or fog.
And don’t enter the substation. There is danger of arcing electricity, toxic smoke, oxygen deficiency and explosion.
Instead, keep the fire from spreading beyond the substation perimeter and call Avista for assistance.
And if you come upon a transformer that is leaking oil, avoid making skin contact or spraying water to disperse the oil, either.
If necessary, prevent the oil from reaching storm drains or waterways by using cat litter or dirt. Then call and let Avista clean up the spill.
When electricity is involved in a structure fire, electrical hazards can increase.
If it’s safe to do so, you may shut off power at a breaker panel or fuse box.
But never pull the meter.
And don’t cut service wires at the masthead unless you have proper training.
The small, low-voltage lines leading into homes and businesses are just as dangerous as larger power lines.
Call and wait for Avista to de-energize the lines first.
If the building has rooftop solar, take special care not to disturb the system.
Keep well clear if you must cut a vent hole in the roof.
A solar system can continue to produce a dangerous amount of current even after Avista disconnects the service wires.
All forms of light—including sun, moon, or incident lighting—can build up current in the system.
Solar panels are designed to withstand wetness from rain and snow.
But in general, do not spray water at any energized equipment.
If you must protect nearby combustibles, use an approved FOG spray only.
In any emergency involving electricity, we’ll send someone out immediately.
Avista asks first responders and public officials to also know their roles in the event of a large scale disaster,
Earthquake, flooding, firestorms—even a train derailment—can all cause damage to electric lines.
Should a disaster occur, forward reports of downed poles and wires and exposed underground lines to the appropriate utility.
Report damaged buildings that have the potential for an electrical fire and attempt to provide the nearest address.
Also remind citizens there may be delays in restoring power with large scale disasters.
Avista has an Emergency Operating Plan for all major emergencies involving the electric grid.
Non-confidential elements of this plan are available on request to assist first responders.
Our primary goal is to protect life first, then property.
Like you, Avista is committed to everyone’s safety.
We appreciate your help.
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