Disaster Safety

Disaster Safety

It is important to beware of electrical dangers associated with power outages.

By following key safety precautions when dealing with electricity during and after storms and other disasters, you can help prevent death, injuries and property damage.

Flooded Areas
Take care when stepping into a flooded area and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potential lethal trap.

Wet Electrical Equipment
Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers. A qualified service repair dealer should recondition electrical equipment that has been wet. For more information, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has produced a brochure, Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged Electrical Equipment, for use by suppliers, installers, inspectors, and users of electrical products to provide advice on the safe handling of electrical equipment that has been exposed to water.

Portable Generators
Do not temporarily connect generators directly to household wiring. Power from generators can back-feed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs. A licensed electrician should install stationary generators to ensure that they meet local electrical codes. There are only two safe ways to use a standby generator.

1. Stationary Generator: Only use with an approved generator transfer switch, which keeps your house circuits separate from the electric co-op, installed by a professional electrician.

2. Portable Generator: Plug appliances directly into the outlet provided on the generator.

Other tips include:

  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded.
  • Keep the generator dry.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator.
  • Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, and are free of cuts, worn insulation and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload the generator.
  • Do not operate the generator in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
  • Start the generator first before connecting appliances.

Downed Power Lines
These can carry an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury or possibly death. The following tips can keep you safe around downed lines:

  • If you see a downed power line, move away from the line and anything touching it. The human body is a ready conductor of electricity.
  • The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock. Electricity wants to move from a high-voltage zone to a low-voltage zone—and it could do that through your body.
  • If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. Call 911 instead.
  • Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object such as a broom or stick. Even non-conductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and then electrocute you.
  • Be careful not to put your feet near water where a downed power line is located. 
  • If you are in your car and it is in contact with the downed line, stay in your car. Tell others to stay away from your vehicle.
  • If you must leave your car because it’s on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the live car and the ground at the same time. This way you avoid being the path of electricity from the car to the earth. Shuffle away from the car.
  • Do not drive over downed lines.

Visit www.electrical-safety.org for additional electrical safety tips and news.