Safety Around Electrical Equipment

Know How to Stay Safe

Overhead Power Lines

High-Voltage Power Transmission Lines
A high-voltage transmission tower.

Assume that any overhead line may be energized and hazardous. Stay away from power lines and keep off utility poles because you can receive an electrical shock from touching or coming near them. Avoid trees and other objects touching power lines. Austin Energy can help you safely trim trees around power lines.

Never Touch a Downed Power Line

Power lines can energize the ground and any objects they touch. If you see a downed power line, stay at least 35 feet away and report it to 512-322-9100.

Kites and Metallic Balloons

Never fly kites or celebrate with metallic balloons near power lines. If kites or metallic balloons fly into overhead power lines, they can cause power outages or even injury.

Stay Safe Around High-Voltage Power Transmission Lines and Equipment

Power coming from remote power plants requires high-voltage power transmission lines, transmission towers, and substations. Because of the extreme danger of the high voltage and related equipment, only qualified personnel should access these structures and equipment.

Keep off transmission towers. They carry high-voltage power lines that can cause electrical shock if you touch or come near them. Only qualified utility personnel with specialized tools and safety gear can climb towers safely.

For your protection, stay away from transmission towers altogether and stay away from other high voltage electrical equipment or power lines.

Pad-Mounted Transformers

Pad Mounted Transformer
An Austin Energy pad-mounted transformer.  

Neighborhoods with underground utilities use pad-mounted transformers to allow Austin Energy personnel access to the electric system. These transformers look like big green or gray metal boxes which are often located within public easements that cross the property owner’s land.

For your protection, avoid making contact with a pad-mounted transformer. Do not plant anything around these transformers. Doing so could make accidental contact with underground electrical equipment or create barriers that limit utility staff access to the equipment for needed repairs. And please, never allow children to play on or near transformers.

Maintain a clear eight-foot path in front of these units. The front is where the transformer’s door opens; the door is padlocked.

To report a pad-mounted transformer that is damaged or unlocked, please call 512-322-9100.

Underground Electric Utility Boxes

Some areas of Austin use buried home electric utility boxes. If you find a buried utility box with a broken or missing lid, call 512-494-9400 to report it. Do not attempt to investigate inside the box. Never remove a buried utility box lid yourself. Do not plant trees or shrubbery near buried utility boxes.

If you need to dig near an underground utility box, call 8-1-1 or visit Texas 8-1-1 online. Open 24x7, excluding major holidays.

Other Electrical Risk

Emergency Responders

Police, firefighters, and EMTs may encounter electrical hazards when responding to emergencies. First responders should not jeopardize their safety when faced with electrical hazards.

  • Assume any fallen wire is dangerous, stay at least 35 feet away, and report it to Austin Energy before proceeding.
  • Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
  • Do not enter or contact vehicles that may be energized.

Remember that electrical hazards are not always visible. A wire may not be sparking but may still be energizing objects that touch it. Learn more about first responder safety, including safety when responding to vehicle accidents.

Drone Safety

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are used both recreationally and professionally. It’s crucial to know the regulations regarding safe drone operation and to avoid flying them near electrical equipment, including substations and power lines. Flying too close to electrical equipment poses significant safety risks to you and others and can cause power interruption. Never attempt to retrieve a drone that has crashed near electrical power equipment. Instead, contact Austin Energy and we will retrieve it for you. Learn more about flying drones safely.

Boats, Planes, and Helicopters

Stay vigilant and check your surroundings when operating all watercraft and aircraft.

Boat masts can interfere with overhead power lines, and docks can leak electricity into nearby water. Never swim near boat docks. Boaters are responsible for maintaining a safe distance away from power lines and knowing the distance between the boat’s waterline and masthead. Learn more about electrical safety tips for boat operators.

Pilots may encounter overhead transmission and utility lines that span approaches to runways. High voltage power lines and supporting structures may not always be visible, and wires may be virtually impossible to see under certain conditions. Learn more about potential flight hazards for private planes

Date last reviewed or modified: 07/15/2024