Electrical Safety

Electrical Safety Is Within Your Power

Electricity is the most common energy source used today. It is very safe, as long as you treat it with respect. In your yard or home, it pays to keep safety top-of-mind.

Downed Power Lines

Knowing what you can do can save your life

Outside

Power Line safety

  • Keep at least 20 feet away from pole-to-pole power lines at all times. Power lines are not insulated in the same way as your household wiring. That’s why they’re mounted well out of harm’s reach or buried in the ground.
  • A metal ladder is lightweight, but it is also conductive and should not be used around electricity. Use a wood or fiberglass ladder instead.
  • Fly kites and model airplanes in open areas well away from overhead wires, too. Avoid kites with wire, metal or foil parts and don’t fly kites or model planes in wet weather.
  • Find out where power lines and other utilities are buried before you install a fence, deck, mailbox or lamppost. A simple phone call to MISS Dig at 8-1-1 is all it takes.

Plugs

  • If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is the right capacity for the tool or appliance with which it is used. Use grounded (three-prong) extension cords for outdoor tools and holiday lighting.
  • Make sure tools, appliances and holiday lights are approved for outdoor use. Outdoor tools and appliances should have heavier wiring, special insulation and a three-prong, grounded plug.

Tree Trimming and Yard Work

  • If you’re planning to trim trees near any power lines, we urge you to consult a professional tree-trimming service. Pole-to-pole overhead power lines carry high-voltage electricity that can seriously or fatally injure you.
  • The wire that runs from the utility pole to your home serves only you, so you will want to make sure it stays clear of trees and limbs. Although the voltage running through the service drop is much lower than that of the pole-to-pole wires, we still recommend you hire a professional tree service to do this trimming.

Teach Children About Safety

  • Teach your children to walk all around a tree before climbing to make sure there are no power lines passing through. They should also never climb transmission towers, utility poles or green or gray metal boxes used for underground wiring.
  • Remind your children that a tree is not a safe shelter in a lightning storm. A tall, wet tree can attract electricity by acting as a lightning rod.
  • Watch our video on storm safety with your kids.

Holiday Lighting

  • When hanging lights around your roofline or in trees, be sure to survey the area for overhead power lines and maintain at least a 10-foot distance.
  • Keep all electrical connections off the ground and hang sockets downward to prevent water from seeping into them.
  • Don’t run electrical cords through door or window openings where they can be damaged.
  • For added protection, plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

Inside

Electrical Shock/Fire

  • Never touch a person who is being shocked. If you can do it safely, unplug the appliance or turn off the power. Call for medical help immediately and begin CPR after the victim is cleared from contact.
  • Electricity and water don’t mix. Never step into a flooded area if water is in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Don’t use electrical appliances or touch circuit breakers or fuses when you’re wet or standing in water.
  • Never throw water on an electrical fire. If you can do it safely, turn off the power or unplug the appliance.
  • Limit the number of appliances plugged into each outlet. Don’t exceed the recommended wattage when replacing bulbs in lamps, light fixtures or holiday lighting.

Plugs and Fuses

  • Only plugs or plug guards should be placed in any outlet. Be sure outdoor outlets and outlets near wet areas of the kitchen, bath and laundry room have GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) to prevent serious shock injuries.
  • Inspect cords and plugs regularly and replace damaged ones. To prevent damage, pull by the plug, not the cord, when unplugging an appliance or yard tool.
  • Never use anything other than a fuse to replace a fuse. Make sure the replacement fuse is the correct amperage.
  • Always unplug an appliance or tool before cleaning, adjusting or repairing it.

Space Heating

  • Use appliances only for their intended purpose and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing, operating and maintaining your appliance. Never try to heat your home using your stove, outdoor grill or any other appliance not specifically designed for indoor heating.
  • Keep children and pets a safe distance from heating appliances.
  • A portable space heater should be placed at least three feet away from flammable material and never be left unattended. Turn off your space heater when leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Maintain proper ventilation in the room where a heater is being used. Open the fireplace damper or open a window slightly to ensure the flow of fresh air and prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
  • Keep properly functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and close to sleeping areas.
  • Never use electric heaters near water because of the possibility of shock or electrocution.
  • Avoid using extension cords with electric heaters.

Holiday Lighting

  • Don’t overload electrical circuits or use more than three sets of standard lights on each extension cord.
  • Unplug light sets before inserting new bulbs or changing fuses.
  • Keep lights off carpet, furniture and drapes. Turn them off before you go to bed or leave home.
  • Make sure household smoke detectors are working properly.

Storm

Downed Power Lines

  • Stay at least 20 feet away from a downed power line and anyone or anything in contact with it, even if there are no sparks. A live wire may whip or sweep through a wide area looking for a ground. A ground is the earth or something touching the earth, like a fence, puddle or even a tree. A live wire that has already found a ground may lie silent, but be equally deadly. Call us immediately at 800.477.4747 if you see a downed power line.
  • If a downed power line comes in contact with your vehicle, stay inside and wait for help. If you must get out because of a fire or other danger, jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground at the same time. Then hop with both feet together or shuffle away. Do not run or stride.
  • Be extremely cautious near metal fences, which conduct electricity, following a severe storm. Electric current will be the strongest where a downed wire is touching a metal fence, but even a connecting fence several backyards away can be energized and dangerous.
  • Never cross the yellow barrier tape around downed power lines.
  • Cable or telephone lines can be energized if they come in contact with electrical lines. Contact with any energized line can be fatal.

Safety Before a Storm

  • If you leave your home during the outage, double-check to make sure all heat-producing appliances, such as stoves, clothes dryers, irons and curling irons, are unplugged. This will minimize the danger of fire if power is restored while you are away.
  • Protect sensitive electronic equipment, such as computers, televisions and stereos, with surge suppressors. If you are home when a storm approaches, you may want to unplug sensitive electronic equipment.

Safety After a Storm

  • Stay out of flooded/damp basements or other areas if water is in contact with outlets, a furnace or any electrically operated appliance that is energized. The water or moisture may conduct electricity. Contact may cause serious or fatal injury.
  • You may have a lot of tree debris in your yard following a storm. Wait until power line repairs are complete before you begin your storm cleanup. Energized power lines may be hidden in the brush. If you see a downed power line, call us immediately at 800.477.4747.
  • Know how to reset your circuit breakers. Make sure appliances and electronics are turned off, your hands are dry and you are standing on a dry surface.
  • If fuses, instead of circuit breakers, protect your home wiring, you may want to call an electrician for assistance. Make sure you have instructions for your specific type of fuse. Get extra replacement fuses and store them near the fuse panel along with a flashlight.
  • During an outage, keep your refrigerator door closed and discard any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for over two hours. Never taste food to determine if it's safe to eat and always discard any items that have come into contact with raw meat juices. See the Food Safety Guidelines if you have questions about your food.
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