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When you are in an auto accident, your first instinct is to get out of the car. But in a wreck with a power line, that could be a fatal mistake. By getting out, you could become the path to ground for electricity and risk electrocution.

Whether it is an auto accident or any other situation, always assume that a power line has power running through it, even if it has been knocked down. Never approach a downed power line or attempt to move it.

If you’re in a wreck with a utility pole, there are several things you should know:

· If you aren’t in immediate danger, remain in the vehicle until help arrives. Unless there is a threat of greater danger—for example, the vehicle is on fire or the vehicle comes to a stop in the middle of the highway—you are safer in than out.

· If there is pressing danger and you must exit the vehicle, you should follow very specific steps. With the door open, prepare to jump out of the vehicle. During the jump you must make sure that no part of your body or clothing is touching the vehicle and ground at the same time. You may need to remove long or loose-fitting clothing. Make sure that you land with your feet together. Once you land, you should shuffle your feet away from the car. Get at least 30 feet away before you begin to walk normally. This sounds silly, but it is your best chance at avoiding electrocution.

· If you come across a vehicle accident involving a power line, stay clear and call 911. Do not approach the vehicle, even if the person is unable to exit and is in imminent danger. If you do approach the vehicle to help the individual, you stand a chance of being electrocuted and making an already bad situation even worse. Keep other individuals away from the car also.

The electricity Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative provides day-in and day-out is a phenomenal resource, powering our modern lifestyles in a safe, reliable and affordable way. But electricity must be respected. If safety isn’t made a priority, what changes our lives for the better could change them for the worse in an instant.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 Medina Electric Cooperative issue of Texas Co-op Power.