How To Prevent Electricity Disasters

With stormy summer weather and higher than average temperatures, it’s possible your household could experience extended power outages. Be prepared by having a disaster plan in place, including emergency supplies such as flashlights and batteries.

Know Your Electrical Connections

As we rely on electronics, appliances and power tools in our homes more than ever before, it’s important to know how they work and their safety precautions. Electrical issues are one of the leading causes of home fires, which kill an average of 400 people a year and cause $1.3 billion in property damage. To avoid them, it’s vital to pay attention to the following warning signs that your wiring is faulty.

Buzzing. Normally electricity flows smoothly through connections, but if you’re hearing a buzzing sound it means the current is jumping between them, which can cause heat to melt wire insulation and create an arc. If the problem persists, call a licensed electrician right away.

Discolored Outlets and Switches

If you notice that outlets in your kitchen or bathrooms look different than the ones in the rest of your house, they may be improperly grounded. Kitchens and bathrooms require special outlets called GFCIs, which have built-in shock protection that protect against dangerous current leakage. If you can’t find these outlets, get a certified electrician to swap them out with the proper ones.

Before beginning any electrical work at home, make sure all breakers are off and put tape over the switches to prevent accidental re-connection. Also, be sure to use a voltage meter or tester to confirm that all the circuits are disconnected. It’s best to have a partner for this, so that one can stay at the breaker box to flip the breakers and the other can monitor which outlets light up when the breaker is turned on.

Never Touch a Downed Power Line

Power lines crisscross our country, giving us the power we need to live. Unfortunately, storms or accidents can knock them down. When you see a downed line, never touch it or anything else in contact with it. The ground around downed lines may be energized and can cause serious injury or even death.

If a downed line comes in contact with your car, stay inside and call 911. If you must get out, shuffle away with small steps and keep both feet on the ground at all times to minimize the potential for shock. Electricity travels through the ground in waves that lose their strength as they move away from the point of contact, so hopping or shuffle walking instead of running or striding can help you avoid an electric shock.

Be especially cautious when a downed line touches a metal fence, pipe or playground equipment. A downed wire that’s touching a metal object can still carry electricity and electrocute you if you touch that object, according to Austin Energy. Always assume that a downed line is energized and dangerous, even if you can’t see sparks or hear buzzing. Stay at least 35 feet away from downed wires, and make sure your children and pets know not to go near them. Also, only use wooden ladders outdoors, as metal ones conduct electricity. Be sure to check your home’s fuse box and replace any fuses that are burned out during a storm by P2 Electrical Contracting. They are steadfast in our commitment to providing only the highest quality electrical services to all our valued clients in Nashville, TN, and the surrounding towns.

Stay Away from Downed Power Lines

A downed power line may look dead, but the electricity still lingers and can cause serious injury. Never touch a fallen power line, no matter what it’s resting on. A distribution line can have as high as 7,200 volts, while higher voltage transmission lines are even more dangerous. Those volts will clamp to anything in contact with the line, including tree limbs, fences, vehicles and, of course, people. The human body is a good conductor of electricity, so touching an energized line will instantly kill you.

If you’re in a vehicle that comes into contact with a downed line, stay inside and call 911 immediately. If it’s necessary to exit the vehicle, shuffle-step (both feet touching the ground) away from it while maintaining a distance of at least 35 feet. Avoid taking large steps or running, as these actions will cause the electricity to run through your body in ripples of different voltages.

You should also stay away from any object that has come in contact with a downed power line, such as a piece of wood or a bucket of water. That includes the ground, as it too can become energized and deliver a deadly shock. The best way to prevent tragedy is to always be on the watch for downed power lines during and after a storm. The danger is not always obvious, as the lines won’t jump around or spark like in movies, but they can still be deadly.

Keep Your Refrigerators and Freezers Closed

Keeping the refrigerator and freezer closed during a power outage allows your food to stay at a colder temperature for a longer period of time. Avoid opening and closing the fridge door frequently, as this causes it to work harder to cool things down again. If you think the power may be out for an extended amount of time, re-pack refrigerated foods into coolers with plenty of ice. You can also buy appliance thermometers ($10, Amazon) to help you monitor the temperatures in your fridge and freezer.

When the power comes back on, check your fridge and freezer temperatures (according to CDC guidelines, refrigerator food should be safe at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower; the freezer can remain cold for 48 hours if full, 24 if half-full). Discard any perishable foods that are above these levels.

Before the power goes out, be sure to unplug all appliances except your fridge and freezer. This protects your appliances from possible electricity surges when the power returns and also conserves energy. Use blankets to wrap your fridge and freezer, too, as this provides additional insulation. Never use gas ovens, barbecues or portable propane or kerosene heaters for indoor heating – these emit dangerous carbon monoxide and can cause fires. Instead, stick with battery-operated flashlights and glow sticks for lighting. Avoid using candles if possible; they can produce dangerous fumes and burn quickly.

Don’t Use Charcoal or Gas Barbecues Indoors

When a storm knocks out power, it’s tempting to heat your home with charcoal or even your camp stove. However, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that using these devices indoors can be deadly. Charcoal emits carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that can kill you if it builds up to toxic levels in your home. The CO replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream, which means that the cells in your body will no longer get the energy they need to function. This can lead to serious tissue damage or even death in a matter of hours.

The only time it is safe to use a charcoal grill indoors is outside, where there are no obstacles that will restrict the flow of CO gas. If you want to use a charcoal grill inside, you must have lots of airflow and open all the windows. However, this is not an option when a severe storm has knocked out power for days or even weeks.

If you live in an area that is prone to power outages, it’s best to prepare for them by having an emergency kit with flashlights, battery-powered radio and a wind-up alarm clock. Also, store generators, camp stoves and charcoal grills outdoors in a well-ventilated area away from your house. Treat power cords gently and never tack them down or pin them between pieces of furniture. This can damage the insulation and compress the conducting wire, increasing the risk of fire.

Keep Candles and Oil Lamps Out of Reach

Electricity is a vital part of our modern world but we tend to take it for granted. However, if there’s a power outage it’s important to remember basic electrical safety.

The main danger posed by incorrect household electricity usage is fire, which can lead to burns or asphyxiation. In fact, the majority of deaths in house fires are caused by smoke inhalation rather than flames.

It’s always best to use flashlights rather than candles, but if you must have candles they should be placed in sturdy candle holders and kept away from combustible materials. Also, never leave a candle burning unattended and make sure that the wick isn’t protruding from the flame. Oil lamps are another fire hazard as they are fueled by liquid and the flame itself is very hot. If you’re using an oil lamp be sure to keep it on a stable table or counter out of the reach of children and refill the tank outside whenever necessary.

If possible, unplug electronic devices and appliances before a storm. This will safeguard against faulty connections that could cause fires and other problems. If you have to plug devices in, try to use outlets that are Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRR) and replace two-pronged adaptors with three-prong plugs to avoid excessive pressure on them. Be sure to regularly check for cords that have become pinched between or underneath furniture.

With stormy summer weather and higher than average temperatures, it’s possible your household could experience extended power outages. Be prepared by having a disaster plan in place, including emergency supplies such as flashlights and batteries. Know Your Electrical Connections As we rely on electronics, appliances and power tools in our homes more than ever before,…