Step potential is the danger present when two parts of your body (usually your feet) are in two different voltage zones. This difference in voltage causes the current to run through you and shock you, which can be fatal.
Whenever you see downed or malfunctioning power equipment, you need to worry about step potential. Broken power equipment can feed electricity directly into the ground, charging the earth beneath your feet. If you have one foot closer to the source of the charge than the other, you can be shocked.
If you see a downed power line or other piece of broken equipment, be sure to stay as far away as possible. Call Eversource or 911 and keep your distance until they make the area safe for everyone.
If you’re in an accident with a car or other vehicle near a downed power line, stay in the vehicle. Eversource or a first responder will tell you when it’s safe to get out. Keep in mind, it is OK to use your cell phone from inside your car.
If there’s a fire or other emergency forcing you to exit the vehicle, there is a special procedure to follow when moving to safety:
- Open the door and and jump clear of the car. Never have one foot touching the ground and the other in the car. Land with both feet together.
- Immediately shuffle or hop away from the vehicle. Keep your feet as close together as you can, so the voltage stays the same.
- Once you are as far away as possible from the vehicle, call Eversource or 911 immediately and report the emergency.