LIVE WIRE DANGER: How to survive a downed power line on your car

Live wire danger

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s hurricane season, and that means storms could knock down power lines. In some cases, they could fall on your car with you in it.

Knowing what to do if that happens is critical if you want to get out alive.

On Jan. 19, 2014, St. Johns County firefighters were called to the scene of a pick-up truck that slammed into a power pole.

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The impact broke the pole in half, leaving the power lines exposed and dangling on the ground.

Captain Andrew O’Quinn was one of the first to arrive at the scene.



“As soon as we got over there, we found the vehicle was still charged with electricity,” said O’Quinn.

The people inside had already gotten out, something O’Quinn said was not the best idea.

“[It’s] something that we don’t recommend, unless there’s some circumstance that you can’t control, such as your vehicle being on fire,” he said.

If that happens, then there’s a right and wrong way to get out.

Action News Jax found that not everyone is aware of how to exit a vehicle in this situation.

“You’re supposed to jump on your tiptoes and tiptoe out, I think,” said Jane Mingo. “I mean, not tiptoe, but shuffle your feet.”

“Do you know what to do if a power line lands on your car?” asked Lorena Inclán.

“Yeah. Get out of the car and leave it there,” said Derrell Nicholas.

The firefighters at Station 18 in Nocatee helped us set up a demonstration to show you the correct lifesaving steps you should take.

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We simulated the power lines using extension cables and hooked up a smoke machine to the car.

O’Quinn said the idea is “you don’t want to complete the circuit” which requires jumping out without touching the vehicle or the ground at the same time.

It’s not just the car that could be energized from that downed power line.

Many people don’t realize that the ground around the car could also put you in danger.

When a power line hits the ground, electricity travels in all directions, reaching up to 35 feet away or farther in wet conditions.

This means if you just get out like you normally would, you could conduct electricity from one leg to the other.

“There are some running down some of the major highways that are probably around 125,000 volts, so a significant amount of electricity flowing through those lines,” said O’Quinn.

“And just a fraction of that can actually kill you?” asked Inclán. “Yes ma’am, it doesn’t take a lot,” he said.

Firefighter Javier Figueroa demonstrated the right way to exit the car.

“Climb up to rocker or the bottom rail of that vehicle as long as he’s not, like we said, touching the ground and completing that circuit,” said O’Quinn as Figueroa demonstrated. “Once he jumps, you’ll notice he lands with two feet at the same time.”

From there, you can do one of two things.

“Slide across the ground like that, making sure he never picks up his feet, or he can bunny hop away from the vehicle,” said O’Quinn.

Action News Jax gave it shot, this time making it a little more realistic by filling the car up with smoke as if it were on fire.

In a real-life scenario, one wrong move could mean serious injury or death.

“You have to treat the electricity with respect at all times,” said neighbor Stanley Mingo.

Something else to keep in mind if you’re driving down a road and you see a downed power line across the street, it is best if you don't run it over.

Instead, just back up and look for another route.