Flagpole Touches Power Line With Tragic Consequences
It was September 11 and members of a Southern Illinois family were erecting a flag pole to fly new flags in commemoration of New York’s World Trade Center tragedy. It quickly became a tragedy for the family when the flag pole toppled onto a power line near their house.
An 80-year-old man was electrocuted when he became the path that electricity took to reach the ground. His 54-year-old stepson was also electrocuted when he approached his father to help. The mishap is under investigation.
The accident illustrates what can happen when long metal items such as flag poles, broadcast antennas, swimming pool skimmers, extension ladders and other metallic items come in contact with overhead power lines. Safe Electricity urges everyone working outside to stay away and maintain at least a 10 foot clearance around power lines to avoid accidents.
Trees and other vegetation that might reach within that zone should not be planted under or near power lines, and other objects such as flag poles and antennas should be placed far enough away that if they fell, contact with power lines would not be made.
It is a common misconception that electric lines may be insulated; that is rarely the case. Wires may have a coating to retard weathering, but the coating does not provide an insulation benefit. Any object touching an overhead power line could serve as a conduit for the electricity should it reach the ground. That not only includes flagpoles, antennas and pool skimmers, but could also include items that contain moisture such as tree limbs, and unfortunately, even human beings.
If overhead lines create a hazard on your property, call your utility company to discuss options for moving the lines or underground installation of the wires. Safe Electricity urges residents not to attempt to touch or move a power line if it may be hanging low above their property. The utility should be notified immediately and people in the area should be kept far away.