Antennas and Power Line Safety!

Don't be STUPID and DEAD!

Power line Safety label.
You may have seen this label on a commercial antenna or other products.
If you did not take a moment to read it carefully, 
Notice the word "near".
Is your antenna "near" those power lines or could it be when unforseen things happen?
 How close is "too close"? How close is "near"?

In this article, we will attempt to inform you of the EXTREME DANGER posed by installing an antenna, any antenna, to close to power lines. Now don't make the mistake and say that can not happen with your antenna, it is made from fiberglass or other material which is an insulator! may be "dead" wrong!
Read on......

Most new hams are excited when they get their license and they want to get on the air as soon as possible. Many of them have not given a thought to the actual installation of an outside ham antenna and the dangers involved other than getting it up as high as they can and having it fall on them.

If you don't read any more of this article, then remember just this very simple statement when putting up any ham antenna,

"If there is a power line, including the drop line going to your house, over, under or within a thousand feet of the antenna, IT WILL FALL AND hit your antenna and YOU while you are installing it! If it does not happen then...just wait a will fall. If it is under your antenna, the antenna WILL fall on the power line and you should not have been so stupid to install it over OR NEAR the power line in the first place and chances are you are not reading this. This is how "accidents" happen.
This statement is derived by using "Murphey's Law"...if it can not happen, it will, if it will happen, it won't.....
unless something else happens......loosely translated for use with this article!
(The thousand feet was a bit of an exaggeration).

 The most important thing you can do FIRST when installing an antenna is to LOOK before any part of that antenna, tower, mast or antenna support or any part of that antenna "system" ever gets off the ground. This includes the guy wires...what if suddenly one breaks and flys into a power line. You or someone else is in contact with the mast, or tries to stop the guy wire..
bang, your dead!

The principle is very easy. Go outside and consider every possible location for your antenna.
Then look at each possible location with the DANGER aspect added to it. Where are the nearest power lines?
Are you in the open, or are there trees in the area?

Look behind the trees or inside the foliage where they might be lurking, just like a rattle snake hiding there waiting to "strike".
Many times it's the power lines out in plain site that will get you or one of your helpers or all within it's reach!

Then, the SECOND thing you need to do is to get another pair of eyes from a helper to do the same thing...LOOK again at ALL possible hiding places for the danger of power lines and remember, it is the power line that you don't see or the one that you are not tooooo concerned about that will terminate your fun.


Now consider that most guyed antennas like verticals are supported on "something". It may be a metal mast on the ground, a short metal "tower" with legs on the roof, or a wooden pole or other supposed "non-conductive material. Is it conductive to high voltage?
Would you bet your life or your help on not knowing for sure?

Assume that every thing the antenna is mounted on AND EVERY THING it is connected to is conductive. Don't gamble your life on the words, "I think it is non-conductive"!!!

Assume that the guy wires are conductive.  If one breaks and snaps back or "accidentally" slips out of yours or a helpers hand, which direction will it likely go...toward the power line? If it is under much tension at all, it will act like a whip...Here comes Murphey's Law....
IT WILL go toward the direction of the power line!

Now, assume a domino effect. If your vertical falls toward a small tree that can't take it's weight, the tree will fall, INTO A POWER LINE....the power line connects to the tree, the tree is connected to the antenna or a portion of it, and it is connected to you....that domino effect just bit you like that rattle snake with a LETHAL BITE!

In short, assume that the antenna or any potion of it including it's guy wires, feed lines, support, etc WILL fall or break while you are putting it up "near" power lines. If any power lines are within "striking" distance of ANY portion of the antenna or it guys, support ropes, may wish...for a split second, that you had planned your life much better rather than get in a hurry to DIE!

So far, we have talked about vertical type antennas. You should apply the above tips to ANY ham radio antenna,
or antenna installation no matter how it is designed, how small or what it is made of.
Your antenna is your "friend" but it or any part of it could be your enemy!

Plan far ahead with these tips:

Let others know what you will be doing and not just the person or persons helping you. All of you may need emergency care and no one may be able to call 911!
If you are not sure what you are doing, get expert help!
Plan your steps as if your life and those around you depend on it.
Notify a family member or neighbor that you will be putting up the antenna. Ask them to keep an eye AND an ear out for you...

NO ALCOHOL OR DRUGS! Alcohol, drugs,electricity and "antenna parties" do not mix!

Get a good nights rest before the big day.
Have a clear mind when you are installing antennas.
Have more than enough help.
Make sure all those involved with the installation know exactly what will be done and in the proper steps. Make a plan and let your helpers know ALL of the details...
Make sure all concerned know what to do if the antenna or any part of it starts to fall toward a power line.....simple....let go....get as far away as possible from ANY part of the antenna.....let it fall...DO NOT TRY TO KEEP IT FROM FALLING INTO THE POWER LINE.....YOUR EFFORTS MAY KILL YOU OR OTHERS!

Do not try to install the antenna in bad weather with wet ground, snow, ice, etc.
There is an old ham saying, "Bad weather is the best weather to put up an antenna". Don't believe it. Mother nature loves to disrupt antenna installations and get you hurt or .....worse.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER put up or even think about putting up any kind of antenna when you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder in the distance, lightning can strike you!

Electricity in Action!

Below are selected videos that may help you understand the dangers of power lines!
(Highspeed connection required or wait for long downloads)

Like a Bird on a Wire!
This clip taken from a 2003 documentary, Helicopters in Action.
It was shot in IMAX showing high voltage power line safety from a birdseye view!
It demonstrates some electrical principles in a very close up and personal way pertaining to
 personal safety! Fascinating demonstration of grounding principles, insulation, Faraday shields,
 high voltage arching.... and....bravery! Turn your sound up and watch for the arching.

A Bright Arc: A Video Guide to Power Line Safety. Produced by WorkSafe BC
Demonstration by professional linemen about the hazards and results of electricity.
Warning...some portions could be graphic to some viewers!
This video was produced in Canada and some methods shown may be different in your country.


It is too graphic to be shown here!
This video on YouTube shows 4 painters who were electrocuted while moving
a portable metal scaffold that touched overhead power lines.
They never looked up!
Video From YouTube here.
You will be asked to sign in and verify your age before viewing this horrible video!
Come back here when you've had enough of this awful incident!
Read some very interesting follow up comments pertaining to power line accidents recently making the news.

This used with permission from Chuck, K0XM
"I just saw this one on the news, and had to write a bit for you guys
to pass on to the ham community, especially the newer hams.

Please forward this in its entirety, as I am using my professional
back ground to back up my statements.


We lost another ham today, and it is a very sad event. The parties
involved, were installing a Comet FIBERGLASS antenna, that came in
contact with a single 7620V power line. Now how do I know what the
exact voltage is? I built and maintained the substation that fed this
circuit. I spent 27 years as a substation technician for the Board of
Public Utilities. I am still in this field. So, I feel I have some
experience in what I am passing along.

In a nutshell, the location of the accident was a few blocks from the
substation. The wires you see going thru the residential areas are AT
MINIMUM 7200 volts from each wire to ground, and between any two of
them is 13,800 volts. This is nothing to play with at any time. I have
seen a fault TOTALLY vaporize 1" copper buss (which is solid). Imagine
what it can do to a human.

Each wire is fed from what is called a 3 phase line. From there, it
can be broken off and sent down a property line as a single wire.
Those are called "laterals" Yes, you will see a device at the break
out point, and this is a fuse. BUT the caution needs to be conveyed.
These fuses are in the 60-100 amp range. This is at 7200 volts.
On top of that, anytime a tree falls across a line, or a pole gets hit, there
is a circuit on the "feeder" at the substation that AUTOMATICALLY
closes the feeder back in, and TRIES to restore the power to the area.
Some of these "reclosers" can operate 2-5 times, depending on how they
are set. Now from the substation end, the protective device is set for
the full fault capabilities of the line. In the case of BPU, this can
be set at 600 AMPS, and multiples of that value. The protective
devices are set for what is called a "time" or and "instantaneous"
operation. Picture a fast blow fuse and a slow blow, and you will
understand the difference in the settings. These setting are at
multiples of the 600 amp value. So, if there is a direct short, then it
will not trip until it reaches a value at, oh lets say, 8 times that
value. So we are looking at 4800 amps. and this is at 7200 volts and
So, it trips, then it energizes it AGAIN.
The possibility of survival is slim and none.

Now remember how I said they were installing a FIBERGLASS antenna?
Well guess what. It is metal inside. Yes, fiberglass does not radiate
as we all know. Hence the metal. That is what caused the accident.
They got too close to the line (remember your 'magnetic lines of flux'
theory? If not, look it up on the web).

There is a minimum approach area that MUST be followed.
This changes for ALL voltages. This distance must NOT be broken.
If it is..... a flashover will happen, and it is not pretty.
Electricity will find the shortest path to ground.
In this case it was a couple of men.

Folks, this is nothing to take chances with. In my almost 30 yrs as a
ham, and 27 yrs in the power utility field, I have seen way too many
"accidents." Stop, look and if it is close or SEEMS that way- DON'T.

Find another place. High voltage lines are NOT forgiving. Your life
depends on it. You always hear "it is the amps not the volts", well I
can tell you when you get at these levels, who is going to argue what
killed the person who had the accident. PLEASE ,PLEASE follow the
warnings. ANYWHERE close is too close.

Stay safe, and I hope we can enjoy many more years of hamming.

Thanks Guys,

Chuck Kraly, K0XM

Well, there you have it. Hopefully some or all of the material above will help at least one of you save your life or others. Pass this link along and get the word safe...have an "antenna party",
not a FUNERAL........enjoy ham radio....73, Don N4UJW