Arlington, VA—With Hurricane Hermine making its way steadily toward the United States, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is reminding residents that danger may linger in your home even after the storm has passed.
“As families begin to clean up following a storm or flood, it is important to be aware of potential dangers that result whenever water comes into contact with electricity,” cautions ESFI president Brett Brenner. “Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have a licensed electrician check the house wiring and appliances to make sure they are safe to use.”
ESFI offers the following safety tips to help you weather the storm and its aftermath safely:
Contact your utility company immediately to report downed power lines.
Stay at least 10 feet away from a downed power line and anything it may be touching, such as a fence, tree limb or water.
Never touch a person or object that is in direct or indirect contact with a downed power line. Instead, call 911 immediately.
Never attempt to move a downed power line – leave it to the professionals. Do not try to move a downed power line with another object. Even non-conductive materials like wood or cloth that are slightly wet can conduct electricity.
Do not return home until instructed by the appropriate local authorities.
Return home during daylight hours, especially if power has not been restored.
Take care when stepping into a flooded area, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potentially deadly trap.
If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities immediately. Do not turn on lights, light matches or engage in any activity that could create a spark.
Submerged Electrical Appliances
Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if reenergized without proper reconditioning or replacement.
Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer. Certain equipment will require replacement, while a trained professional may be able to recondition other devices.
Electrical items, such as circuit breakers, fuses, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), receptacles, plugs and switches, can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them if they have been submerged.
Ocean water and salt spray can be particularly damaging to electrical equipment due to the corrosive and conductive nature of the salt water residue.
Damage to electrical equipment can also result from exposure to flood waters contaminated with chemicals, sewage, oil and other debris.