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‘Bunny hop’ could save your life‘Bunny hop’ could save your life

Hoosier Perspectives: Learn what experts recommend you do if you must exit a vehicle contacting a power line.

Tom J. Bechman

October 16, 2023

2 Min Read
View of a field from the inside of a sprayer
STAY PUT: This sprayer boom is entangled in a power line. If it’s safe in the cab, stay put. If tires or other parts of the vehicle are on fire, it’s time to exit. Do it safely, jumping clear with legs and feet together, and moving forward by shuffling or bunny-hopping. Fred Whitford, PPP-151

There is no off-season for accidents involving electricity. You do your best to keep equipment from touching power lines. But if the unthinkable happens, do you know how to keep yourself safe until help arrives?

Many people aren’t well versed on every type of accident that could occur, says Fred Whitford, director of Purdue Pesticide Programs. That’s why he sought help from experts and wrote Overhead Power and Communication Lines: Don’t Get Grounded. It’s publication PPP-151, the latest in a series of publications from Purdue Pesticide Programs. Order a printed copy at edustore.purdue.edu.

“If the incident involves your employee, and you are first to arrive, tell the driver to stay put,” Whitford says. “Call both 911 and the utility right away. If others drive up, keep them away. Tell them to stay in their vehicle.”

What if it’s you in the cab? “It’s critical to stay in the cab until linemen arrive and deenergize the line,” Whitford says. “Tires provide insulation against electricity moving from wires to ground. Even with a live line on the cab, you’re safe inside the cab.”

This is the same principle that keeps birds perched on power lines safe, he explains.

You may feel a slight tingle because electricity is flowing. “As long as there is no fire or immediate danger, don’t panic,” Whitford says. “Just stay put!”

Related:All eyes look up for safety

An unsafe cab

If tires or other parts of the vehicle are on fire, it’s a whole different scenario, Whitford explains. Now the cab is unsafe, and you have little choice but to exit. However, one mistake could result in injury or death.

“Leap off and get clear of the machine,” Whitford says. “Aim to land comfortably without getting hung up on equipment or falling backward. Jump away from the down power line. Get low, cross your hands over your body and maintain your balance. Hit with your feet close together.”

To move forward, you have two options, he observes. Either shuffle both feet, rubbing your shoes together, or do the “bunny hop.” In either case, keep your arms and feet together.

graphic explaining how to exit a vehicle that is touching power lines

Doing the bunny hop may sound silly, but Whitford says it could save your life. “You’re trying to stay within a single voltage zone,” he explains. “If you spread your feet, crawl away or run away, you’re much more likely to be in two different charges, and electricity will flow through you.”

The bottom line is that it’s better to look silly for a few seconds than risk injury or death, Whitford concludes.

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Farm Safety

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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