‘Lines Down!’ One Family’s Story

The letter brought tears to our eyes:

“Thanks to you guys, I got to go home and see my puppy. Also thanks to you guys, I got to have my 14th birthday. And I get to keep living.”

What caused such an extraordinary thank you letter to be written?

It was this past New Year’s Eve. Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue Volunteer Duty Chief Liz Iabichello got a call: A mother and three children in a SUV had gone off a road, hitting a utility pole. Power lines were down.

When Liz arrived, she saw the family’s father had also rushed to the scene, and was calling down to his family, telling them to get out of the SUV. She immediately stopped him:

“I was in a Central Lincoln class a few years ago – we were told to treat all downed lines as ‘hot’ or energized. I knew the family could be in danger, and I made sure he stayed back. Things got very tense; he wanted them out, and I knew they needed to stay in that SUV!”

Jason, a Central Lincoln serviceman, quickly arrived. With a hot stick (a lineman’s tool for working on energized lines) he carefully moved the lines off of the vehicle, allowing the mother and three kids to get out safely. “He told me, ‘had they tried to get out, and up to the road, they wouldn’t have made it,'” Liz says.

“People can’t tell if a line is energized by looking at it,” explains Central Lincoln Safety Coordinator Cody Christian. “Please stay a minimum of 30 feet away from a downed line, and don’t drive underneath lines that are sagging low to the ground. If a line falls on your car, stay in the car until a utility worker arrives with the right equipment to handle the situation. If you try getting out of the car, you could be badly injured or even killed.”

The family’s middle child, a daughter, wrote the thank you letter.

We’re very thankful Liz was able to use what she’d learned in our class, saving the lives of this family. “Your trainings with emergency medical services and fire departments are priceless,” she writes. “I appreciate the work that you all do.”

Cody leads free electricity safety classes not only for emergency responders, but also for children’s and adult groups. Please email us at info@clpud.org to request a talk or class.