Electrical Safety Precautions Help Avoid Further Tragedies During Hurricanes

July 27, 2005
Whether you're a first responder, a clean-up worker or someone living in an area that has been struck by a hurricane, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is warning people to beware of the dangers hurricanes pose when water comes in contact with electricity.

"Electrical safety guidelines are always important. During clean-up following a flood, electrical safety precautions can help avoid further loss and tragedy," said ESFI Program Manager Anne Mayberry.

To protect against the hazards of the aftermath of hurricanes and floods, ESFI offers this safety advice:

  • Take care when stepping into a flooded area, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potential lethal trap.
  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers. For those that have been under water, have them reconditioned by a qualified service repairman.
  • Take special care with portable electric generators. They can provide a good source of power, but if improperly installed or operated they can become deadly.
  • Do not connect generators directly to household wiring. Power from generators can backfeed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs. A qualified, licensed electrician should install generators to ensure that they meet local electrical codes.
  • Make sure generators are properly grounded.
  • Keep generators dry.
  • Do not plug appliances directly into generators.
  • Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, are free of cuts and worn insulation and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload generators.
  • Do not operate generators in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of carbon dioxide very quickly, which can be deadly.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

More electrical safety tips are available at www.electrical-safety.org.

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