Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power believe power lines are safe for people to live around. However, a few safety issues to be aware of:
Line breaking - This can happen at any voltage level but is very infrequent and is generally the result of a vehicle colliding with a power pole. Safety devices, such as circuit breakers, are in place on the electrical system to detect such an event and disconnect power. If protective devices fail to open the circuit, a line lying in the road can be live and pose a serious risk of injury or death if someone comes in contact with it. Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power remind the public to always stay away from a downed power line and call the local electric company immediately.
Fires caused by malfunctions or animal contact with power lines - Infrequently, a connection device will fail on a power pole and cause it to burn, resulting in a fire. Occasionally, a small animal or bird may contact live distribution or transmission lines and cause a brush or forest fire.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) - EMF are invisible forces created by any electric charge. The word “electromagnetic” is a combination of two words; electro (electric) and magnetic. Electric fields are the result of the strength (voltage) of the electric charge. Magnetic fields are the result of the motion (current) of the charge. Wherever electricity is used, EMF are present. Since the early 1970s, extensive research has been performed to determine if EMF pose health risks. Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power agree with the overwhelming body of scientific research that show EMF are not detrimental to human or animal health.
- EMF and interference - EMF do not cause radio, TV or cell phone interference. Modern line design has eliminated problems that caused noise or interference in the past. While it does happen occasionally, it is typically on older lines or where a piece of equipment is not operating correctly. When a problem does occur Idaho Power has the equipment and trained personnel to address the issue as required by the Federal Communication Committee (FCC).
- EMF and Global Positioning System (GPS) interference - According to the following study by the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, power line conductors are unlikely to cause signal degradation to GPS signals. A GPS receiver relies on a dispersed constellation of satellites - at least four and often more. Specifically, it was noted that there was no loss of satellite signals as a GPS receiver was moved across a power line easement. (Source: “Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) Receivers Under Power-Line Conductors,” IEEE Transactions On Power Delivery, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 2002.)
- EMF and interference with pivot irrigation systems - The Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers conducted a study to determine if electromagnetic fields of high voltage transmission lines can interfere with electromagnetically guided cornering systems associated with some center pivot irrigation units. Using electromagnetic susceptibility tests, it was found that 60 hertz magnetic fields of more than approximately 500 mG (Milligauss) are required to cause interference with the operation of one system. This level is significantly higher than those found near most high voltage transmission lines. (Source: “Electromagnetic Compatibility of High Voltage Transmission Lines and the Guidance of Center Pivot Irrigation Units With Cornering Systems,” IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1998.)
Stray voltage - Stray voltage develops on the grounded neutral system of either the farm wiring or utility distribution system. If an animal touches metal equipment under the right conditions, any voltage on the grounded neutral system will cause a small current to flow through the animal into the ground. It may be a result of damaged or improper wiring on the farm or a nearby farm, or on Idaho Power or Rocky Mountain Power’s electricity lines. Under normal conditions, the voltage is too weak to generate any physical or behavioral changes in the animal.
For more information about safety issues, visit:
EMF - Electric and Magnetic Fields Associated with the Use of Electric Power: Questions and Answers (PDF, 11.4 MB; National Institute for Environmental Health Safety and the National Institutes of Health, June 2002.)