Winter Weather Safety Hazards

Downed Power Lines

Avoid Touching or Approaching a Fallen Power Line

Downed power lines are dangerous. Never touch them. For safety’s sake, always assume that a fallen power line is live, and follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid touching the downed line with your hand or an object, such as a stick, broom or pole.
  • Avoid touching anything, such as a car, object or equipment, or anyone who is in contact with a fallen power line.
  • Keep children and pets away from fallen electric lines.
  • Avoid driving over a fallen power line.
  • Call 911 immediately to report a fallen power line.

Stay Safe if a Fallen Power Line Touches Your Car

If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line, follow these safety rules:

  • Stay inside your car. The ground around your car may be energized.
  • Sound the horn, roll down your window and call for help.
  • Warn others to stay away. Anyone who touches the equipment or ground around your car can be injured.
  • Use your mobile phone to call 911.
  • Wait until the fire department, police or PG&E workers tell you it’s safe to get out of your car before exiting the vehicle.

If Your Car is in Contact with a Fallen Power Line and a Fire Starts, Follow These Guidelines When Exiting Your Vehicle:

  • Remove loose items of clothing.
  • Keep your hands at your sides and jump clear of the vehicle, so you are not touching the car when your feet hit the ground.
  • Keep both feet close together and shuffle away from the vehicle without picking up your feet.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced whenever a fuel source (such as gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal) burns. If there is too much CO in the air we breathe, red blood cells accept it as a replacement for oxygen – resulting in tissue damage and possibly death.

Initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those associated with the flu or common cold. At low levels, symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, chest pain and confusion. However, high levels of CO intake can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unborn babies, infants, those with anemia, heart disease or respiratory problems, and pets are most susceptible to the harmful effects of CO poisoning.

If you are indoors and experience any of the symptoms related to CO poisoning, go outside and get fresh air immediately. This is especially true if more than one person is experiencing these symptoms. After breathing fresh air, go to the nearest emergency room and alert them that you suspect CO poisoning so that a blood test can be completed soon after the exposure.

Although you cannot detect too much CO in your home or office without a monitor, there are things you can do to help prevent the build-up of the gas. Before using fuel-burning appliances like generators and home chimneys or furnaces, have them inspected by a trained professional each season. It is also necessary to vent appliance fumes outside the home and turn off space heaters before you leave the room or go to bed. As all types of charcoal give off CO, it is never advisable to burn charcoal indoors or in a fireplace.

Additional Resources

Portable Generator Safety

Download safety tips (PDF)

Winter Fire Safety

The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities have caused many to seek alternative sources for home heating. The use of wood burning stoves, fireplaces and space heaters is growing. These supplemental heat measures do provide a great deal of benefit, but they are also a major contributing factor in residential fires. However, by following safety precautions, many of these fires can be prevented.

Kerosene Heaters

Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon build-up. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut-off, in case the heater is tipped over. Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the manufacturer for that device. Avoid overfueling, and do not fill the heater while it is operating or is hot to the touch. Keep children and pets away from the heater. Never use fuel burning appliances without proper ventilation, as the fuels used produce deadly fumes. Use a carbon monoxide detector in conjunction with the heater.

Wood Stoves and Fireplaces

Be sure the stove or fireplace is properly installed, and checked for cleanliness each time before using. Have the flue and the chimney inspected annually to ensure proper ventilation. Do not use flammable liquids or other accelerants to start the fire, and use only proper materials (charcoal can be deadly if used indoors). Keep a protective screen in front of the fire to prevent sparks from escaping. Be certain the flames are completely extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed. Do not discard hot ashes inside or near the home’s foundation.

Electrical Appliances and Extension Cords

Some fires are caused by electrical system failures and defects, while many more are the result of misuse and poor maintenance. Read manufacturer's instructions for proper use and routinely check for damaged units or frayed cords.

Smoke Detectors

During a typical year, home problems account for 67,800 fires, nearly 500 deaths and more than $850 million in property losses across the United States. Be sure that every level of your home has a working smoke detector and check this on a regular basis (batteries should be tested at least every six months). For additional fire safety tips, please contact your local fire district.