Electric cooperative warn farmers of power line dangers

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Last year, electric cooperatives in South Dakota noticed a disturbing trend - an increasing number of farm vehicles hitting power lines.

As a result those cooperatives decided to swing into action with a campaign that would hopefully avoid those accidents and save lives in the process.

Tonight a story that shows the push to educate farmers on the danger is paying off.

You could call electricity a silent killer.
The power lines don't buzz, hum or crackle. they're just.....there.
But if you hit one with something like a tractor.....it can be deadly.
Linda Bannwarth farms on land northeast of Mitchell. "I have taken care of people who have had electricity go through them...have been on the other side of it."

Two decades ago she was an emergency room nurse who saw her share of farm related injuries; some involving power lines.
But like most bad things she never thought it would happen to her until it did last November...when she was behind the wheel of her tractor. "But then the line was drooped down and so the auger went up over and underneath the power line."

Linda's story is the kind that sends chills through those who work for electric cooperatives.

"If you have new equipment, if you broke new ground, if you're farming a new field, make sure that you give that a look and you're looking for what's overhead." Courtney Deinert is with Central Electric Cooperative. She tells us the overall rule is always know what is immediately above you and what might come into contact with you if you're moving. "Contacts can happen during day to day activities. It could be something that you do every single day."

So what should you if a piece of farm equipment you're in hits a power line? Courtney says stay in the vehicle, don't try to get out of it and call for help which means you'll always want a cell phone on you.
But what if you hit a power line and your vehicle catches fire? What should you do then? "We ask you to tuck your arms up and give yourself a hug and then hop clear. Do not touch the equipment and the ground at the same time and then shuffle or hop away."

So back to Linda Bannworth? What did she do after driving her tractor into a power line? "I stayed in the tractor until Central Electric came so I didn't break a power line."

Linda thankfully knew what to do and it's because she is part of the solution; teaching electricity safety through the Farm Bureau.
Accidents happen, Linda knows that first hand. She says the mistake a lot of people make is thinking that what they're doing is routine.....and not paying attention to what they're doing. "You have to be focused. You can't have your mind on something else."

Central Electric Cooperative says they will work with landowners who feel they have clearance issues with nearby power lines to eliminate any possible danger.