Severe storms and natural disasters can cause a variety of electrical safety hazards in and around our homes. Lightning, downed power lines, and floods are just a few of the serious safety concerns associated with storms. Unfortunately, many of these hazards remain long after the storm itself has passed.
To help protect you from storm-related electrical hazards, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and Central Georgia EMC are providing answers to common storm safety questions.
What should I do if I am caught outside during a lightning storm?
- Move to a low point. Lightning hits the tallest available object, so get in a crouched position, if you are in an exposed area.
- Stay away from trees.
- Avoid metal. Do not hold onto metal items like bats, golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets, or tools. Stay away from metal sheds, clotheslines, poles, and fences.
- Stay away from water, including pools, lakes, puddles, and anything damp.
- Do not stand close to other people. Spread out.
Is there any warning before lightning strikes?
Sometimes. If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Do not lie down. Instead, crouch down, tuck your head, and cover your ears.
What should I do if I encounter a lightning storm while driving in my car?
Slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area.
Am I safer in or out of my car?
Do not leave your vehicle during a thunderstorm. A vehicle is considered safe during a thunderstorm if it is fully enclosed with a metal top, such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, or truck. While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices.
When a storm is raging outside, are we safe from lightning if we stay inside the house?
Follow these indoor lightning safety tips to help keep your family safe inside while there is a storm outside:
- Stay away from windows and doors.
- If possible, unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives.
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment and cords during storms.
- Avoid contact with water and plumbing, including sinks, baths, and faucets.
What should I do if I encounter a downed power line?
If you see a downed power line, keep a safe distance from the line and anything touching it. The human body is a ready conductor of electricity.
The proper way to move away from a downed power line is to hop away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock.
What can I do to help someone who has come in contact with a downed power line?
If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. Call 911 instead.
Can I use something that is not metal to try to move a downed power line myself?
Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object, such as a broom or stick. Even nonconductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and then electrocute you.
What should I do if I see a downed power line in the street while I am driving?
Avoid driving over the downed line, and stay in your car. Call 911, then contact CGEMC to provide details to the location.
What if a power line comes down onto my car or I did not see it until I have driven into it?
If you are in your car, and it is in contact with the downed line, stay in your car. Tell others to stay away from your vehicle. If you must leave your car because of a car fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the live car and the ground at the same time. This way, you avoid being the path of electricity from the car to the earth. Hop away from the car, keeping your feet together.
Is a downed power line still dangerous if it has come down in water, like a pool or pond?
Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Any amount of water—even a puddle—could become energized. Be careful not to touch water—or anything in contact with the water—near a downed power line.
My basement has flooded, and there is standing water. Is it safe to go down there?
Use extreme care when stepping into flooded areas. Submerged outlets or electrical cords can energize water, posing a lethal trap.
My washer, dryer, and a few other appliances got wet during a flood. Can I start using them again after they dry out?
Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer. Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if re-energized without proper reconditioning or replacement.
Does a flood affect my home’s electrical system or just the appliances?
Electrical items, such as circuit breakers, fuses, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), receptacles, plugs, and switches, can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them if they have been submerged. Have a licensed, qualified professional replace them.