Safety during

Storms and Floods


Flood Safety

According to the Federal Emergency Disaster Agency (FEMA), floods are one of the most common hazards in the United Sates. 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. If there is any danger the water could be energized because of contact with electrical equipment, do not enter the area. You could be in serious danger of electrocution.

Here are some additional suggestions from Safe Electricity to help keep you and your family safe during a flood:

  • 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.
  • 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, 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.

Safe Electricity 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.

Safety Indoors during a Thunderstorm

The Safe Electricity program urges everyone to be sure that their loved ones are aware of the dangers associated with lightning and how to protect themselves.

If thunderstorms and lightning are approaching, the safest location is indoors away from doors and windows with the shades drawn. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the area in which it is raining and you do not have to see clouds.  A direct strike is not necessary for lightning voltage to enter your home through phone lines, electrical wires, cables, and plumbing.

Avoid water, electric appliances, and other objects that could conduct electricity, and use only cordless or cell phones to make emergency calls. Other recommendations to avoid lightning shock and damage include:

  • Turn off and unplug appliances well before a storm nears—never during. Do not expect a surge protector to save appliances from a lightning strike, unplug it as well.
  • Stay away from electrical outlets, appliances, computers, power tools, and TVs. Take off headsets and stop playing video games.
  • Turn off your air conditioner to protect the compressor from a power surge and avoid a costly repair job.
  • Avoid water and contact with piping—including sinks, baths, and faucets. Do not wash dishes, shower, or bathe during a thunderstorm. Also avoid washers and dryers since they not only connect with the plumbing and electrical systems but also contain an electrical path from the outside through the dryer vent.
  • Do not lie on the concrete floor of a garage as it likely contains a wire mesh.
  • Basements typically are a safe place to go during thunderstorms, but avoid concrete walls that may contain metal rebar.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Dog houses are not lightning-safe, and dogs chained to trees can easily fall victim to a strike.
  • When the storm is over, wait 30 minutes after the last lightning strike you see before going outside.

More information on lightning safety can be found at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov. Additional storm safety information can be found at SafeElectricity.org.

Staying Safe During Winter Storms


Winter can bring thoughts of gently falling snow or sparkling ice, but it can also bring unpredictable weather with high winds, whiteouts, and ice storms. This can cause hazardous roads and power outages.

If the electricity goes out due to a winter storm, you might be in for a prolonged power outage as crews work through the harsh weather to get the power back on. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to contact your electrical utility as soon as you can so they know you have lost power. Other actions you can take to stay safe and comfortable are:

  • Stay inside, and dress warm.
  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • When using an alternative heat source, follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards, and be sure to properly ventilate. Always keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby, and know how to use it.
  • Place draft block at the bottom of doors to minimize cold drafts from entering the house.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Keep a close eye on the temperature in your home. Infants and people over the age of 65 are often more susceptible to the cold. You may want to stay with friends or relatives or go to a shelter if you cannot keep your home warm.

Winter can bring a variety of weather patterns ranging from mild snows to severe blizzards. To prepare yourself for winter storms, make sure to pay attention to weather forecasts and understand the difference between the warnings provided by the National Weather Service:

  • Winter Storm Warning – issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet is coming or occurring. The warnings are issued 12 to 24 hours prior to the storm.
  • Winter Storm Watch – alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Watches are issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm.
  • Winter Storm Outlook– this is given when winter storm conditions are possible and are issued three to five days in advance of a winter storm.
  • Blizzard Warning – issued for gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow that creates visibilities of a fourth of a mile or less. These conditions usually last at least three hours.

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