Severe storms and natural disasters can cause a variety of electrical safety hazards in and around our homes. Lightning, downed power lines, and floods are just a few of the serious safety concerns associated with storms. Unfortunately, many of these electrical safety hazards remain long after the storm itself has passed.
To help protect you from storm-related electrical hazards, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and Steuben Rural Electric Cooperative are providing answers to common storm safety questions about:
ESFI strongly recommends that a licensed electrician install home generators to ensure they meet all local electrical codes.
Also, make sure your generator is properly grounded in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring unless an appropriate transfer switch has been installed by a licensed, qualified electrician.
Without the proper transfer switch, power provided by the generator can "backfeed" along the power lines, creating a significant electrocution hazard for anyone coming in contact with the lines, including lineworkers making necessary repairs.
Never operate a generator inside your home or in any other enclosed or even partially enclosed area. Generators very quickly produce carbon monoxide, which can easily enter your home.
Place the generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Do not operate the generator in wet conditions, or where there is standing water.
Opening windows or doors or using fans does not provide adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide. Generators must be located outside a safe distance away from your home's windows, doors, and vents, through which carbon monoxide can enter your home.
Preliminary research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) indicates that even 15 feet from the home is too close to operate a generator safely.
Remember your neighbors, too. Keep your generator a safe distance away from their homes as well.
The capacity of generators varies. Follow the manufacturer's instruction carefully. Do not overload the generator.
If you see a downed power line, move at least 10 feet 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 the 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.
Do not drive over downed power lines.
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.
Water is a good conductor of electricity. Any amount of water - even a puddle - could become energized. Be careful not to touch water - or anything in contact with the water - near where there is a downed power line.