One way to get homeowners agitated is to talk about someone else trimming their trees. Oddly enough, another way is to have a home lose power, and that can often be traced to a tree that fell on a power line.
Timely topic in the Carolinas as we are supposed to be exiting the hurricane season, but other parts of the state will get ready for ice and snow. Lots of extremes in the Carolinas.
Who is responsible for trimming trees?
The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) requires utilities to trim trees near power lines. Property owners may also have certain responsibilities to keep trees trimmed. It’s best to call your utility company to determine where that boundary is. It is always best to check before doing any cutting or trimming in the interest of safety.
In my neighborhood a resident decided to trim his trees mid-morning on Thanksgiving Day. You are way ahead of me on this, I imagine. It turned out to be a six-hour outage after the tree branch took down a power line to the subdivision. Did I say it was Thanksgiving morning?
Problems happen when the weight of the trees or its foliage gets too heavy for the power lines, and in a storm or high winds or heavy snow or ice accumulation, the trees or foliage fall and the power lines go with them.
An outage is a problem, but there can also be a major electrocution hazard to anyone nearby. People may not expect that kind of danger if they just go to their backyard or across a street to see what’s up. It is possible.
To show how severe the need for tree trimming can become I have several photos here I took on a recent road trip. I won’t say where I shot these except it was not in the Carolinas. It was, however, along the expected trajectory of Hurricane Delta, and I think it screams, “Get ready for a possible outage because of trees.”
Outages are only part of the issue for tree trimming. “A very important reason for keeping the ROW [Right of Way] clear is SAFETY. Accidents happen so quickly. Kids climbing trees can be a tragedy waiting to happen if they touch a limb in contact with an energized line or touch the line itself. The result can be severe injury or even death. Adults also are at risk if working around lines in trees. Power lines can carry up to 34,500 volts and can be deadly. Never touch an electrical wire; always assume it is conducting electricity and is dangerous.” That quote is from York Electric in South Carolina.
Utilities work with well-recognized tree care associations and create Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) programs. Duke Energy says this, “An IVM program evaluates vegetation and determines the best methods for maintenance and tree removal to ensure reliable service. Our program’s objective is to minimize tree-related power outages in a manner that is consistent with good arboricultural practices.”
Tree trimming is not haphazard. The image from the Arbor Day Foundation shows the general concepts of tree maintenance, below, though there can be some differences between utilities.
Homeowners can help out by planting the right kind of trees in the right places. Check your utility website to see if it has such a resource. Here’s a good one from Florida Power and Light.
Tree trimming is an evolving technology for utilities. “Precise, timely, data-driven insights can help utilities manage more disruption, enhancing grid resilience while minimizing outages and accelerating recovery. New digital tools combine detailed, near-real-time data about vegetation and weather conditions with artificial intelligence (AI). This can help utilities become more proactive, precise and effective about how they target and plan tree-trimming activities, both on a routine basis and in preparation for approaching storms.” (Source)
The bottom line for homeowners and their trees: Don’t take chances. There can be real danger in tree trimming by homeowners and it is best to contact your utility and ask questions about trees.
Once more, this reminder: Never touch an electrical wire even if it is on the ground; always assume it is conducting electricity and is dangerous.