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DTE executive Ryan Stowe discusses electrical dangers after a power arc flash demonstration at the DTE Warren Service Center in Detroit. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

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Detroit — DTE Energy is stepping up its safety campaign to increase awareness of the dangers of downed power lines this summer, officials say. 

"Downed power lines are more common in the summer due to weather conditions," said Ryan Stowe, executive director of distributor operations. "Due to the heat, the condition of trees, winds and thunderstorms, we will see downed lines and if the conditions are dangerous, it will take workers longer to repair.

DTE Energy advises people to ‘stay 20 feet away from any downed wire and assume that it’s live.’

In May, a 74-year-old Detroit woman died after she tried to remove a downed wire in her backyard  after a wind storm. 

"In our three-step plan, we are going to focus on how to prevent down wires from happening, how we can use technology to improve response and overall education and demonstrations to visually give an external perspective of the danger," Stowe said at a demonstration Thursday. 

DTE Energy engineers demonstrated that a down dead line looks the same as a live wire.  Avoid any lines and leave it to a professional, DTE said. Downed power lines can carry up to 8,320 volts and can be fatal upon contact.

Officials also warned about contact with low-voltage poles while using power tools and trimming trees. Even poles powering a single home carry up to 200 volts. 

Storms aren't the only cause of downed wires, DTE said.

"Roughly, two utility poles are hit by cars a day in Metro Detroit," said spokeswoman Randi Berris. "We need to teach people to always assume it's a live power line. Just because the circuit is down doesn't mean power isn't running through it."

DTE Energy expects storms over the weekend will bring more downed wires. 

If there is a power outage or you find downed power lines, contact DTE Energy at (800) 477-4747.  

DTE warns to: 

  • Never drive across a downed power line. If a power line falls on your vehicle, remain inside until help arrives. 
  • Treat all traffic lights that are out as four-way stops as the result of a new Michigan law. 
  • Stay out of flooded or damp basements or other areas if water is in contact with outlets or any electrically operated appliance. The water or moisture may serve as a conductor of electricity. This can cause a serious or even fatal injury.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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