Give Your Family “TLC” – A message from SafeElectricity.org
Televised reports of natural disasters where wind is involved frequently display electrical arcs from power lines and damaged transformers. While spectacular in nature, they also illustrate the potential electrocution danger associated with natural disasters. Hurricanes can tear apart the electrical grid, increasing the danger for both the public and utility workers.
When Hurricane Hugo struck Puerto Rico in 1989 all nine fatalities were from electrocution, and four people who lost their lives were working to restore power after the storm. Three others died when they touched energized power lines. Hurricane Isabel’s strike against North America in 2003 was blamed for the deaths of three utility workers who were removing lines from tree branches. In 2011, electrocution fatalities from Hurricane Irene included a man who tried to save his neighbors—a father and his 5-year-old son—who had come in contact with a fence that was electrified by a downed electrical line.
“Power lines can be dangerous for anyone, even professionals,” says Molly Hall, Safe Electricity Executive Director. “It is important for everyone to understand the dangers of electricity.” Safe Electricity initiated “Teach Learn Care TLC,” an electrical safety awareness campaign to encourage everyone to “Teach what you know; Learn what you need to; and Care enough to share it with those you love.”
“TLC is the fabric of preparedness,” says Hall. “Remember TLC to ensure that loved ones know about electrical hazards that can be left in a disaster’s wake.” Important safety measures include:
- Treat all power lines as energized until there is certainty that power has been disconnected. Stay clear of fallen power lines and flooded areas that could hide a hazard. Remember, electricity passes easily through water.
- Do not attempt to drive over a downed power line, and if power lines should fall on your vehicle while you are driving, do not attempt to drive away or get out. Call for help, and stay inside until utility crews say it is safe to get out.
- Never step into a flooded area in your home, such as the basement, where water could be in contact with outlets or appliances that are plugged in.
- Use flashlights instead of candles when power goes out after a hurricane. Candles can pose a fire hazard.
- Electrical sparks can potentially ignite natural gas if it is leaking. FEMA recommends locating your electricity circuit box and teaching all responsible household members where and how to shut off the electricity so that you are prepared in case you are instructed to turn off the utility service at your home. For your safety, always shut off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker.
- If you are using a portable generator, be sure that the main circuit breaker is OFF and locked out prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from back-feeding electricity into the utility system and help protect utility line workers from possible electrocution.
Make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of a disaster. To learn more about safety in the wake of storms, visit www.SafeElectricity.org.