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March 21, 2011

As signs of spring appear, people will be spending more time outside performing home improvement tasks and enjoying recreational activities. Before beginning your annual migration to the great outdoors, think about these safety tips and advisories.

Kite flying
Never use wire, tinsel or any metal in kite construction or as string -- it can conduct electricity. Never fly a kite near power lines. Electricity always takes the path of least resistance to the ground; it could go through the string to your body. Instead, choose a wide-open field to fly kites. Lightning could also cause wet kite strings to act as conductors of electricity to the ground. Do not fly kites on rainy days when there is a possibility that lightning could occur.

A word on balloons
This time of year, it’s common to use balloons for birthday parties, weddings, or storefront displays. Please keep in mind, however, that metallic coatings on Mylar helium balloons can cause damage to the electrical system and result in power outages. Please keep them away from power lines. If a kite or balloon becomes caught in a power line, leave it there and call Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) at 1-800-311-4634 in Indiana, or 1-800-311-6424 in Michigan for assistance.

Putting a new antenna on the roof? What’s overhead?
Most contact with overhead power lines is accidental, but it can result in severe injuries and even death. Before you begin any job, whether it’s installing a TV antenna on your roof or constructing a new building, be aware of power line locations. A minimum clearance of 10 feet from overhead power lines should be maintained. Your minimum clearance should increase as the voltage increases. Also keep in mind that minimum clearances can be affected by weather conditions, the type of work being performed and the equipment used. Information about minimal clearances for various voltages can be found at IndianaMichiganPower.com.

Use a clean, dry wood or fiberglass ladder if electric lines are anywhere in the area. They are less likely to conduct electricity than a metal ladder. When installing an antenna, position it at least 1.5 times its total length away from power lines. If it starts to fall, let it go and stay clear.

Installing a fence? A new mailbox? What’s underground?
Whether your project is big or small, it’s important to know what’s below before you dig. A nationwide number makes that process easy. Call 811 at least 48 hours before you plan to dig so you can have the underground power lines located.

Planting a tree?
Planting a tree is the time to think about what is above and what is below. I&M recommends that no trees or shrubs be planted directly underneath power lines or near transformers that power underground lines. Consider the following characteristics of tree species before planting:

• Height: Will it bump into anything when it is fully grown?
• Canopy spread: How wide will the tree grow?
• Growth rate: Slow-growing species are typically stronger and live longer than those that grow faster.
• Form or shape: A columnar tree will grow in less space, while round or V-shaped trees provide more shade.

Your local nursery or tree service can recommend the right tree for the right place.

What about spring storms?
Thunderstorms produce lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can blow down trees and power lines. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Avoid touching anything outside that’s made of metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity, such as metal yard furniture, metal benches or bleachers. If you encounter a downed power line, assume it is energized and stay away. Call I&M at 1-800-311-4634 in Indiana, or 1-800-311-6424 in Michigan to report it.


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