It could be caused by heavy rains, rising river levels, or melting snow that cause flooding. According to the Federal Emergency Disaster Agency (FEMA), floods are one of the most common hazards in the United Sates. Some floods happen very quickly and some slowly, but in either case they can pose electrical dangers for you and your family.
Festus Rockensock, Lead Electrician at Beltrami Electric Cooperative says, “If flood waters have made it into your home, it is critical to be alert to electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water, as it can create a serious danger of electrocution.”
The prospect of an electrical accident is probably not top of mind when you are dealing with flooding in your home, but it is the first thing you should think of before you step into a flooded area. Rockensock adds, “If there is any danger the water could be energized, do not enter the area.”
Safety measures to keep in mind include:
- NEVER step into a flooded basement or other room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances, or cords.
- NEVER attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. If you cannot reach your breaker box safely, call your electric utility to shut off power at the meter.
- NEVER use electric appliances or touch electric wires, switches, or fuses when you are wet or when you are standing in water.
- Keep electric tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from wet surfaces. Do not use electric yard tools if it is raining or the ground is wet.
In addition to the dangers flooding presents in a home, there are many others to consider during a flood, like:
- Never drive into flood waters because it is very difficult to tell by sight how deep floodwaters are. It only takes 6 inches of water for your car to lose control and stall. Your car could be swept out of control and into electrical dangers.”
- Also, do not enter flood waters on foot or in boat. Flood waters hold unknown dangers. The water could be energized or could sweep you into electrical equipment. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
- If you see downed power lines or damaged equipment, stay away, warn others to stay away, and notify the authorities.
If you are in a flood prone area, there are some steps you can take before flooding begins. One action you can take to be better prepared is to have a sump pump with a back-up battery in case the power goes out and an alarm to alert you of flooding. Additionally, you can elevate the water heater, electric panel, and furnace to keep them clear of potential flood waters.
Beltrami Electric Cooperative also recommends installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on outdoor outlets and indoor outlets in areas of the house that are prone to flooding such as the basement. GFCIs should also be installed in rooms with heavy water use such as the laundry room, bathroom, and kitchen areas.