Safe electricity offers tips to stay safe after storms

Safe electricity offers tips to stay safe after storms


URBANA—Springtime can spawn severe, damaging storms and heavy rain. Safe Electricity would like to remind people of the increased electrocution risks that springtime storms and flooding can cause and offers safety tips to avoid serious injury or death when dealing with the aftermath of a major storm or disaster.

“The danger does not end when the storm does,” says Molly Hall, director of Safe Electricity. “People can be hurt or killed by hazards left behind. It’s wise to be cautious in any clean-up effort.”

Stay away from downed power lines and be alert to the possibility that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. Treat all downed or hanging power lines as if they are energized. Warn others to stay away and contact the electric utility.

If using electric yard tools in clean-up efforts, do not operate them if it’s raining or the ground is wet, or while you are wet or standing in water. Keep all electric tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from wet surfaces.

“Before re-entering storm-damaged buildings or rooms, be sure all electric and gas services are turned off,” said Jay Solomon, University of Illinois Extension Engineering educator. “Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. If you can’t reach your breaker box safely, call your electric utility to shut off power at the meter.”

Never step into a flooded basement or other area if water is covering electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Be alert to any electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water. Never touch electrical appliances, cords or wires while you are wet or standing in water.

“Cleaning up and using water-damaged appliances also carry safety risks,” said Solomon. “Electric motors in appliances that have been drenched or submerged should be thoroughly cleaned and reconditioned before they are put back into service. It may be necessary to repair or replace electrical appliances or tools that have been in contact with water. Do not use any water-damaged appliance until a professional has checked it out.”

If after a storm or disaster, the power to your home is out for a prolonged period, know important safety rules, such as never using a charcoal or gas grill to cook inside. And if you use a standby generator, make sure a transfer safety switch is used or connect the appliance(s) directly to the generator output through an isolated circuit before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, what’s known as “back feed.” Back feed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

Information: Spanish versions of electrical safety information are also available on this Web site.

Safe Electricity is a statewide electrical safety public awareness program. The program was created by a coalition of nearly three dozen organizations including the University of Illinois, rural electric cooperatives, and investor-owned electric utilities from throughout the state. All are members of the Illinois Electric Council, a not-for profit organization dedicated to promoting electric safety and efficiency.

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