By Brett Brenner, President, Electrical Safety Foundation International
As of the beginning of August 2017, five named Atlantic tropical storms have already occurred, including tropical storm Cindy, which caused flooding in several southeastern states. Experts at the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project predict 2017 will have a higher number of named storms than average for the Atlantic region, including eight hurricanes.
The peak hurricane season in the Atlantic is from mid-August to late October. In addition to knocking out power to large portions of your service area, post-storm electrical hazards can cause deaths and injuries to employees and customers alike. On average, more deaths occur due to flooding each year than from any other severe weather related hazard. Storms also account for many of the fatalities associated with generator use.
Utilities can help their communities stay safe during and after storms by sharing information with customers on electrical dangers associated with severe storms and tips for staying safe in the event of floods and power outages.
Tips for staying safe include:
- In advance of a severe storm, unplug appliances and power cords to protect them from power surges.
- Test your home’s carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms to ensure they’re functioning.
- Keep flashlights handy to use for light. Candles pose a fire hazard.
- Do not enter flooded areas until a professional has deemed it safe to do so – submerged outlets and cords can electrify water.
- Never operate a generator inside a home or in other enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, including garages.
- Always use a transfer switch with generators to isolate utility power from generator power to prevent backfeeding.
- Think twice before driving during a storm, and avoid driving through floodwater. A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
- Contact local authorities if you see a downed power line, and keep a safe distance between you and a downed line, which can energize the ground up to 35 feet away.
- Never to drive over a downed power line or water that is in contact with one.
- Once power is restored, have an electrician inspect electrical appliances that have been wet. These appliances should not be turned on or plugged in unless an electrician tells you that it is safe.
Do what you can to share these and other safety tips before a storm hits, it might save a customer’s life. ESFI has numerous safety resources that can help you, your family, and customers alike weather the storm, including infographics on hurricane safety, flood safety, downed power lines, and how to safely use portable generators.