Weather the Elements With These 16 Electrical Safety Tips
Mother Nature is unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for her to strike and act responsibly in her wake. Unsafe electrical situations can make weather even more dangerous, or can turn a routine day into a nightmare. Follow this breakdown of different weather patterns and electrical safety tips specific to each one.
Image via Flickr David Hepworth
During a storm, electricity is everywhere. Every year, more than 40 people are killed by lightning in the United States and 200 people are injured. While lighting is a definite threat, there are other electrical dangers to look out for. Follow these tips to stay safe.
Install surge protectors: Electrical surges are caused by lightning and can damage or completely break your electronic devices. Surge protectors prevent the voltage from rising above a safe level (traditionally 120 volts) to keep your equipment safe.
Unplug Unnecessary Appliances: Lighting can travel through electronic devices, so if your devices don’t have surge protectors, you need to unplug them.
Avoid Plumbing: This includes showers, sinks, and bathtubs. Believe it or not, plumbing can conduct electricity, and bathroom fixtures can too. Wait to shower after the storm has subsided.
Turn off Air Conditioners: This might be hard if there’s a storm in July or August, but 30 minutes of discomfort is better than having your AC struck by lightning and out for a few days.
Avoid Using Landlines: For the same reasons that you should avoid plumbing and electronics, use your mobile phone instead of your landline when possible.
Even after a thunderstorm passes, there’s always a threat of flooding. Flood damage varies widely, from a few inches that seep into the basement to flash floods that sweep away houses. Water and electricity don’t mix, so here’s how you can be safe.
Create an Emergency Kit: Don’t wait until the waters are rising to create an emergency kit to handle electric problems, this is something you can do today. Your kit should include:
- First Aid kit
- Battery-operated radio
- Extra Batteries
- Wooden stick for flipping circuit breakers
- Rubber gloves
- Rubber boots with hard soles.
Turn Off Electricity in the Fuse Box: Only do this if the floor below you is dry. Also, turn off and unplug electrical appliances.
Never Enter a Room if the Water Covers Electrical Outlets: if the water covers outlets, or cords that are plugged into outlets, don’t enter it if possible.
Listen for Buzzing or Snapping: If you think a room is still safe, listen for any electrical sounds. Snapping, crackling, or buzzing are warning sounds. Also look for sparks. You don’t want to battle a flood and electrical fire.
Call Your Electric Provider: Even after a flood, call you city’s electric services provider and ask them to shut off the power in any area that is under water.
After a Flood, Clean and Dry Out Devices: This should only be done if the power is still off. Dry off devices, unscrew outlets and clean them, and don’t forget lamps and overhead lighting.
Have an Electrician Approve Your Home: Make sure he or she checks all boxes, wiring, major devices, and motors before you turn them on. They know if they are safe to use.
Snow, Ice, and Other Winter Weather
Cold weather is a danger in and of itself, as dropping temperatures make people buy more heaters and use the stove and oven more often, which increases the risk for fire.
Christmas also poses several electrical safety threats as people overload outlets to light up the perfect tree. This section won’t focus on the holidays, but rather the winter weather that causes electrical threats.
Trim Tree Branches: Before the winter months, keep an eye on any branches that could potentially damage power lines or your home. This will keep the neighborhood warm and safe, and protect your house from heavy ice-covered branches.
Do Not Approach Fallen Power Lines: This applies to weather during a blizzard, flood, storm, or sunny day. Let the professionals handle fallen lines.
Switch Off and Unplug Appliances: This may seem unnecessary, as the power is already out, but you don’t want to overload the circuits when the power comes back on. Switch and unplug as many devices as possible, leaving on one lamp or light on as a signal that the power is back.
Follow Electric Generator Instructions: Never use it indoors, try not to overload it, keep it grounded to avoid electric shocks, and be careful of hot areas during use.
General Power Outage Electrical Tips
There are a few ways to stay safe and help your electric company if there’s an outage. No matter the reason, whether there’s a natural disaster or just a surge in the neighborhood, follow these general guidelines.
Create a Plan: Where will you go if you need to evacuate? This is especially important if a loved one is on electric-powered life-sustaining medical equipment.
Check Your Neighbors’ Houses: If they have electricity then it’s a problem with your home, if they’re also dark then it’s a regional problem.
Turn on Your Porch Light: This won’t do anything when the power is out, but when it comes back you are letting the power companies know which areas are okay.
If You Think Someone Was Electrocuted: Do not touch them. If they’re still in contact with the source, the current could pass on to you.
If You Are Touching an Electric Source: Use non-conducting materials like cardboard, plastic, or wood. Approach electricity with extreme caution.
Weather and electricity are a bad combination, and the lingering threat continues even when the storm has passed. Just because the snow has melted or the flood waters have receded doesn’t mean your appliances, home, and neighborhood wiring is safe. If you have any concerns about your electricity, contact your electric services provider. They will be able to help you prepare for anything, and recover from the worst. Always use caution with electricity and be knowledgeable on fire and electrical safety. These tips could help save your home and your life.