Plant trees safely away from power lines and equipment

April 27 is Arbor Day—great time to begin preparing for planting of trees

SPRINGFIELD—Trees that grow too close to electrical lines can create power outages, shock and fire hazards.

Before beginning yard landscaping projects this spring, Safe Electricity reminds people of the importance of planting tall-growing trees safely away from power lines, and to seek help in choosing and planting trees and bushes that won’t grow to interfere with their electric supply.

“Trees provide many aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits, including energy-efficient shade and cooling during hot summer months,” says Molly Hall, executive director of Safe Electricity. “But everyone needs to be aware of the dangers and risks created when trees grow into power lines, and the importance of calling the utility or utility locator service before beginning any landscaping project.”

“Landowners need to understand utility line clearance practices and why they’re important to safe and reliable electric service,” adds Hall.

Trees conduct electricity and can create a safety hazard if limbs grow too close to electric lines. Power outages or momentary interruptions can occur when trees and branches come into contact with overhead lines. Electrical arcing and sparking from a wire to a nearby branch can cause fires. But a greater concern is the safety risk when children climb trees near power lines. Accidental contact of electric wires with a tree limb or person playing or trimming around the tree could be fatal.

Trees growing near power lines must be pruned to maintain a safe distance from the wires. If you have trees that appear to be growing into power lines, contact your electric provider. Never try to prune them yourself. Utilities have skilled professionals trained to safely prune and trim trees for electric line clearances.

To avoid future electrical hazards, safe planting tips to remember include:

Consider mature height of trees. Do not plant near overhead power lines any tree that can grow to 25 feet tall. A mature height of less than 15 feet is recommended

Do not plant near underground utility services. Tree roots can grow and interfere with underground pipes, cables and wires. Future repairs to these facilities also could damage the health and beauty of nearby plants and trees.

Keep areas around electric meters, transformers or other electrical equipment free of any vegetation that could limit utility service access.

Before digging, call the local underground utility locator service to mark location of underground utilities so that accidental contact, damage and injuries can be avoided.

Before beginning any outdoor excavating or landscaping project, call your electric provider and underground utility locator service to identify and locate all possible utility hazards. Your utility also can provide helpful planting information, or refer you to nursery and landscaping experts for assistance in designing a beautiful, shade-filled yard with trees appropriate to plant near power lines.

“There are many beautiful varieties of low-growing trees and shrubs that provide color, screening and shade,” says Hall. “These types of trees co-exist well with power lines and avoid the need for trimming for line clearance.”

“Trees enhance the quality of life in our communities,” Hall said. “This tree-planting season, consider the environmental and energy-saving benefits of trees and bushes, but equally important, the need to choose the right tree when planting near power lines.”

Safe Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of several dozen organizations, including electric utilities and cooperatives, educators and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety.

from the April 25-May 1, 2007, issue

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