Tree fallen on powerlines in storm

Trees on powerlines

If you're part of the Emergency Services, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself responding to situations where trees are either on or entangled with powerlines. When responding, it’s essential to know the risks and what to do. 
Remember, always stay at least 8 metres away from any tree in contact with powerlines.

What are the risks?

Approximately two-thirds of power outages in metropolitan areas are caused by falling trees and branches hitting powerlines.

When responding to an emergency, remember that trees and vegetation can conduct electricity due to their water and sap content. Any tree touching powerlines or an electrical asset should be treated with extreme caution.

When trees come into contact with powerlines, it's not only dangerous for people, but they can also cause power surges, widespread power outages, and electrical fires. 

What to do when responding to trees in contact with powerlines

  1. Never attempt to pull a tree or branch away from powerlines
    Trees and foliage can conduct electricity and an electrical current can easily pass to you.  
  2. Remain at least 8 metres away
    Stay at least 8 metres away from any tree or vegetation in contact with powerlines and contact your communication centre who will advise the electricity distributor of the situation.
  3. Don't use water
    Don’t attempt to extinguish an electrical fire with water. Water is conductive and when used to extinguish an electrical fire, the person runs the risk of electrocution. 

Electrical fires

Trees can easily ignite when exposed to electricity. Similarly, foliage growing into overhead wires can cause power surges and spark fires. Stay clear of electrical fires involving powerlines. Do not attempt to extinguish electrical fires with water - leave it to the fire brigade.

The second-largest wildfire in California's history was sparked when powerlines came into contact with a tree. The fire burned 963,309 acres, spreading across five counties in Northern California. 

In Australia, a bushfire that devastated parts of the Blue Mountains in 2013 was ignited by a rotting tree which had fallen on powerlines. The fire destroyed 194 homes and burned through 3,600 hectares of bushland.
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If someone receives a serious electric shock, your instinct will likely be to go to their aid, but you should first stop and assess the danger, before helping.  
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Electric shocks can be deadly; even mild shocks can affect the heart. You should encourage anyone who has come into contact with electricity to undertake a medical assessment with a professional. 

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Emergency services should contact their communications centre whenever electricity is involved

your electricity distributor

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Check your electricity distributor's website or social media for updates on power outages.
Electricity distributors in Australia have resources including outage maps that can be accessed online. Many also give live updates via social media.
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Contact your electricity distributor to report fallen wires or damaged poles and powerlines.
If you notice an electrical hazard, report it to your electricity distributor immediately, either online or by phone.