Loss Control Manager for Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange
Safety & Health:
Killer Storms Deadly Aftermath
Flooding and storm damage leave behind dangers you can avoid
Illinois started out the summer with a lot of rain, lightning, wind, tornados and flooding. It’s been a real mess. You might think that the danger is over after the storm passes, but that is when most of the injuries happen. Flooding is the biggest killer when it comes to weather events, and you probably think that’s from being swept away or drowning. That’s just part of the danger of flooding.
When you’re dealing with flood-damaged property, the prospect of an electrical accident is probably not top of mind. But it’s the first thing you should think of before you step foot into a flooded area or storm-damaged building.
Before re-entering storm-damaged buildings or rooms, be sure 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 cooperative to shut off power at the meter. Safety measures recommended by Safe Electricity include:
It’s important to stay clear of downed power lines, and in cleanup efforts, be alert to the possibility that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. Assume that any dangling wires you encounter are electrical, and treat all downed or hanging power lines as if they are energized.
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 the local electric cooperative or utility. Also following a storm, be alert 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.
If after a summer storm or disaster, the power to your home is out for a prolonged period, know and understand important safety precautions and steps to cope with heat until power is restored:
During an outage, Safe Electricity also recommends turning off electrical appliances and unplugging major equipment, including air conditioning, 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 isolated circuit before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, what’s known as “back feed.”
A back feed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power.
For More Information:
Mike Bird is Loss Control Manager for Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, the leading provider of property and casualty insurance for electric co-ops, and a member of the Safe Electricity Advisory Team. For more information go to www.safeelectricity.org.
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