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Safety remains top priority after a storm

There may be a mess in your yard and your home has been damaged, but safety remains the top priority in the wake of a severe storm. Make sure you and your family are aware that hazards could be hidden by tree limbs and debris, dangers such as downed power lines or electrical equipment in contact with the wet ground.

Stay away from and report any downed or sagging lines. They should be considered energized and dangerous until utility linemen can assure the lines are de-energized and the area is safe.

A downed power line that’s energized can cause other things around it to become hazardous. A fence or guardrail touching a downed line can be energized for several thousand yards and poses a threat to anyone coming into contact with these structures. Also, stay away from puddles that could be in contact with downed lines. Encountering these can be as hazardous as coming into contact with the downed power line itself.

Do not attempt to drive over a downed power line, and if a storm causes your vehicle to be draped in power lines, do not attempt to drive away or get out. Call for help and stay inside until utility crews say it’s safe to do so.

Be alert to potential hazards from flooding or standing water. If using electric yard tools in clean-up efforts, do not operate them if it’s raining or ground is wet, or while you are wet or standing in water. Keep all electric tools and equipment at least ten feet away from wet surfaces. Make sure outdoor tools are plugged into outlets with ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. If your outdoor outlets don’t have GFCIs, use a portable GFCI cord.

Inside your home, never step in to a flooded room or other area if water is covering electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Be alert to any electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water. Never touch electrical appliances, cords or wires while you are wet or standing in water.

During an outage, Safe Electricity also recommends turning off electrical appliances and unplugging major equipment, computers and televisions. This will help protect equipment that could be damaged by electrical surges and prevent circuit overloads when power is restored. Leave one light on to indicate that power has been restored. Wait a few minutes then turn on other appliances and equipment one at a time.

If you use a standby generator, make sure a transfer safety switch is used, or connect the appliance(s) directly to the generator output through an extension cord. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, what’s known as “backfeed.” Backfeed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

Learn more about operating generators safely and safety in the wake of storms at SafeElectricity.org.