October 12, 2015 12:01 am
In the days following a severe storm, flooding can result in electrical hazards in the home and on the surrounding property. In fact, electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if reenergized without property reconditioning or replacement, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). Damage to electrical equipment can also result from exposure to flood waters contaminated with chemicals, sewage, oil and other debris.
“As families begin cleaning up after a flood, there are many hidden electrical hazards throughout the home,” says ESFI President Brett Brenner. “Water and electricity don’t mix, and the dangers associated with submerged electrical equipment can be deadly.”
The ESFI strongly advises homeowners not to 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.
Keep in mind ocean water and salt spray can be particularly damaging to electrical equipment due to the corrosive and conductive nature of the salt water residue.
When it comes to downed power lines, always assume they are energized. Contact your utility company immediately to report downed lines, and stay at least 10 feet away from the 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.
Additionally, 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.
Portable generators can also be dangerous if not used properly. Do not operate a portable generator in your home or in any other enclosed or even-partially enclosed area. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Make sure that there is at least one battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Test it before using your generator.
Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring unless an appropriate transfer switch has been installed by a licensed, qualified electrician. Always turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling.
Published with permission from RISMedia.