Safety Before and After Storms
Severe storms are more common in the spring and summer, but they can occur any time of year. Be prepared for storms and know how to stay safe.
Before the storm:
- Assemble a kit of essentials, like water, battery-operated flashlights, and radios. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers, including the electric utility. Be prepared for the possibility of a prolonged outage due to power line and electric equipment damage.
- If severe weather is on its way, pay attention to local weather reports and recommendations. A tornado or severe storm watch means conditions are favorable for those weather conditions forming. A warning means dangerous weather conditions are developing and imminent.
- Lightning can travel up to ten miles away from a storm, so seek shelter when you hear thunder.
- Consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or purchasing a portable GFCI. GFCIs detect dangerous electrical situations and cut off power before a person can be shocked. These dangerous electrical situations are likely to occur around water, so GFCIs should be installed in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, basements, outdoors and anywhere else water and electricity may meet.
- If power goes out, switch off lights, large electronics and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns.
After the storm:
- When venturing outside, stay away from downed power lines and be alert to the possibility that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. Assume any dangling wires you encounter are energized and dangerous. Warn others to stay away and contact the electric utility.
- If you are driving and come upon a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, warn others to stay away, and contact emergency personnel or electric utility. Also, when driving, be careful at intersections where traffic lights may be out. Stop at all railroad crossings and treat road intersections with traffic signals as a four-way stop before proceeding with caution.
- Before re-entering storm-damaged buildings or rooms, be sure all electric and gas services are turned off. Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. If you can’t reach your breaker box safely, call your electric utility to shut off power at the meter.
- Never step into a flooded basement 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.
- Do not use water-damaged electric items until a qualified electrician has inspected them and ensured they are safe.
- When using a portable generator, follow all manufacturers’ recommendations. Keep the generator dry and never plug it into a wall outlet or directly into the home’s wiring. This could inadvertently energize the utility lines and injure yourself or others working to restore power.
- A permanent standby generator should be professionally installed and include a transfer switch to prevent electricity from leaving your generator and going into power lines where it can kill line workers.
For more electrical safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org.