The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What To Do If Live Wires Hit Your Car

Tragedy in Fanwood. Photo by Jessica Remo/NJ Advance Media
By now, many of you know that a young woman from Plainfield was electrocuted in yesterday's frightening storm by the electrical current from fallen live wires on her car when she attempted to get out. She has not been identified as of this writing, but condolences are offered here to her family, friends, and loved ones.  

I wouldn't have known what to do had I been in such a situation, and I am thinking that I am not alone. The Star-Ledger's weather center has posted a story with advice from PSE&G about what to do if live wires hit your car. 

I am re-posting it here, along with a link that you may want to share: What To Do If Live Wires Hit Your Car During a Storm

What To Do If Live Wires Hit Your Car During a Storm

By Len Melisurgo NJ Advance Media for

If you're driving during a storm and a live electrical wire falls onto your car, experts say you should stay inside until help arrives.
New Jersey's three biggest utility companies all advise drivers and passengers to remain inside their vehicle if it comes into contact with wires, because — contrary to popular belief — tires are electrical conductors, not insulators.

"It is true that you are safe in your vehicle when a live wire falls on it. But that's because electricity always seeks the easiest path to the ground," PSE&G says on its website.
"If you remain in the vehicle, the path of the electricity will be on the outside of the vehicle, through the tires, and into the ground. As long as we do not provide a path to the ground through our body, the electricity will not enter it. So when an electrical wire falls on your vehicle, stay in your vehicle until help arrives and the power is shut off," the website says.

If a driver or passenger has to escape from a vehicle because of a fire or other life-threatening situation, PSE&G offers this advice: "Jump out with both feet together, making sure that you are not touching any part of the vehicle when your feet hit the ground."

It's important to land with both feet hitting the ground at the same time, said Tricia Ingraham, a spokeswoman for First Energy, the parent company of JCP&L. When you land on the ground, keep your feet as close together as possible, then slowly hop or shuffle as far away from the electrical wires as possible, Ingraham said.

Motorists in this dangerous situation have to remember that the ground around the vehicle is electrified if a live wire is touching the car. As a result, there's a strong risk of getting electrocuted if you step outside of your car one foot at a time.

That's apparently what happened to a 26-year-old Plainfield woman who was driving in Fanwood during Monday's thunderstorms. Police said a tree and utility wires fell onto her car, and when she tried to exit her vehicle she was electrocuted by the live current.

"The reason a person standing on electrified ground can't walk away normally is because each foot would land in a power ripple with a different voltage," according to a report by the Toronto Sun. "The resulting voltage difference will cause electricity to flow through your body, up one leg and down the other. Shuffling or hopping aims to avoid this."

"If there are live wires, you want to stay in your car," said Joe Martucci, a meteorologist at WeatherWorks in Hackettstown. "As long as you're in your car, the electricity can get transferred around the frame of the car," through the tires and then into the ground.

In response to the electrocution in Fanwood, PSE&G released a statement Monday night calling the incident "a terrible tragedy" and adding: "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the woman who died."

"The safety of our employees and customers is always our primary concern. We urge customers to consider all wires energized and report them immediately to PSE&G," the company said. "In the event that an electric line or wire comes down on a vehicle with passengers, stay in the vehicle until professional help arrives to safely remove you from the vehicle."

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