Dangers of Electricity

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Following a hurricane, electrical equipment, downed power lines and household wiring can all pose potential hazards if not dealt with properly. Here’s how to safely contend with such problems.

  • If your electrical equipment is wet or near water, switch off the main breaker. If you must enter flood water to reach the main switch, call an electrician to turn it off.
  • Do not turn electrical equipment back on until it has been professionally inspected.
  • Stay clear of downed power lines—they may still be energized and dangerous. Beware of water contacting downed lines.
  • Do not trim trees or remove debris near downed power lines.
  • If you must remove debris that’s in or near your home, do not pile it under or near electrical lines or equipment.
  • If appliances were on when power was lost, make sure all appliances are turned off. If left on, they could pose fire hazards.
  • Avoid using candles. Use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns instead.
  • If you spot a downed power line, report it to the utility company. Otherwise, keep utility telephone lines clear for emergency calls.

How Is Power Restored After a Storm?

  • After a storm has passed, your electric provider quickly begins to assess the damage to the electric system.
  • Your electric provider then begins restoring power to essential services such as hospitals, traffic signals, shelters, communication centers and law enforcement.
  • Next, power is restored to the greatest number of customers in the shortest time.
  • Finally, individual services are restored, or those that need reconnection after repairs to damaged electrical systems.

What If My Neighbor Has Power But I Don’t?

First, check all circuit breakers by resetting them. If your breakers aren’t the problem, then:

  • You may be on another power feeder line or power transformer.
  • The transformer serving your location may be damaged. These are the last system devices to be repaired, as resources are focused on restoring the greatest number of customers first.
  • Your weather head conduit (the pipe and wire extending above your roof) is damaged or bent. An electrician must repair it and it must be inspected before restoring power.
  • Your home has its own underground service and it may be damaged. If so, you must have it repaired by an electrician and inspected before power can be restored.
  • If none of this is the case, and your neighbor’s power is on while yours is still out, call your utility.

More on Hurricane

Dangers of Electricity

Following a hurricane, electrical equipment, downed power lines and household wiring can all pose potential hazards if not dealt with properly. Here’s how to safely contend with such problems.

About Electronics

  • If an electronic appliance has been subject to rain or flood water, it may not be salvageable, and attempts at do-it-yourself repair can be dangerous to the owner as well as the device. Use extreme caution around wet electronics, especially if you’re attempting to repair or restore them.
  • Never open an electronic appliance to dry the inside. A tube television is especially dangerous, retaining very high electric voltages for quite a while.
  • Unplug items and let them dry thoroughly. Don’t assume that because the outside is dry, the inside has dried. Continue drying for a few more days.
  • Place the equipment in the sun, but monitor it closely. Bright sunlight can damage liquid crystal displays (LCDs) such as flat-screen televisions and computer monitors.
  • After you’re sure the item is completely dry, plug it in. If it doesn’t work right away, give it another day to dry.
  • If the power indicator lights come on, leave the equipment on for about 10 minutes, then turn it off for about 30 minutes. Repeat, leaving the appliance on for an extra five minutes on each try.
  • If an appliance power indicator does not come on, and the outlet works, take it to be repaired.
  • If you see smoke or hear crackling sounds, unplug it immediately and take it for repair.

About Electric Vehicles

A car is submerged on a flooded street during Hurricane Ian. Credit: CBS

Electric vehicle batteries are usually at the bottom of the engine, leaving them more vulnerable to flood damage than those in gas-powered vehicles. Flood waters, and especially salt water, can damage an electric vehicle’s battery, causing it to short-circuit and discharge its stored energy. This process, called “thermal runaway,” can transfer heat from one battery cell to another, potentially creating a chain reaction causing the battery cells to ignite and burn. And the issue isn’t limited to street vehicles, as after Hurricane Ian, there were also reports of flooded golf carts catching fire. While the simplest way to avoid an EV fire is to move the vehicle away from a potential flood area before the storm, to further minimize your risks of electric vehicle fires after a storm, follow these steps.

• If a car is submerged in salt water, unplug it from the wall before power is restored.

• Always assume the battery and associated components are energized and fully charged.

• As thermal runaway can occur hours or even days after flood waters have receded, do not try to start or drive an electric vehicle that has been flooded until it has been checked out by a professional.

• If your electric vehicle has flooded, put it in neutral (the process for doing so without turning it on will vary by vehicle) and move it at least 50 feet from any structure, vehicle or combustible.

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