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Electrical Safety Precautions During Disasters

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) warns consumers to beware of electrical dangers associated with power outages, floods and severe storms. By following the key safety precautions when dealing with electricity during and after storms and other disasters, you can help prevent death, injuries and property damage. 

  • FLOODED AREAS: Take care when stepping into a flooded area, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potential lethal trap.
  • WET ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT: Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers. A qualified service repair dealer should recondition electrical equipment that has been wet. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has a brochure called "Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged Electrical Equipment" to provide advice on the safe handling of electrical equipment that has been exposed to water. It outlines which items will require complete replacement or can be reconditioned by a trained professional. Equipment covered includes electrical distribution equipment, motor circuits, power equipment, transformers, wire, cable, flexible cords, wiring devices, GFCIs, surge protectors, lighting fixtures and ballasts, motors, electronic products including signaling, protection, communication systems, industrial controls and cable trays. the entire brochure has been incorporated into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's manual, "Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building utility Systems" or it may be downloades free of charge at: http://www.nema.org/stds/water-damaged.cfm.
  • PORTABLE GENERATORS: Take special care with portable electric generators which can provide a good source of power, but if improperly installed or operated, can become deadly. Do not connect generators directly to household wiring. Power from generators can backfeed along power lines and electocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs. A licensed electrician should install permanent, high-powered generators to ensure that they meet local electrical codes. Other tips include: 1. Make sure your generator is properly grounded. 2. Keep the generator dry. 3. Plug appliances directly into the generator. 4. Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, are free of cuts & worn insulation and they have three-pronged plugs. 5. Do not overload the generator. 6. Do not operate the generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quuickly which can be deadly. 7. Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
  • DOWNED POWER LINES: These can carry an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury and death. The following tips can keep you safe around downed lines: 1. If you see a downed power line, move away from the line and anything touching it. The human body is a ready conductor of electricty. 2. The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle 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. Electricity want to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage zone--and it could do that through your body. 3. If you see someone who is in the direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. call 911 instead. 4. 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 non-conductive materials, like wood or cloth, if even slightly wet can consuct electricity and then electrocute you. 5. Be careful not to put your feet near water where a downed power line is located. 6. 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. 7. If you must leave your car because it's on 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. shuffle away from the car as explained earlier. 8. Do not drive over downed lines. For additional information go to www.electrical-safety.org or e-mail: info@electrical-safety.org.

 

FLOODS ARE THE #1 NATURAL DISASTER

How do you define a flood? It is a temporary situation when 2 or more acres of normally dry land or 2 adjoining properties, one of which is yours, are partially or completely covered by water. Flooding can occur in high risk to low risk zones at any time of the year.  Whether they are flash floods, mudslides, snow melt, or heavy rain, they can devastate communities. According to the booklet put out by Homeland Security and FEMA called "WARNING: The #1 natural disaster isn't covered by homeowners insurance", They claim that more than 6 million homes were flooded last year alone and people lost their belongings, personal mementos, everything. Floods usually strike without warning and they occur in all 50 states.  With the construction of more roads, shopping malls, residential and industrial developments the chance of flooding only increases.  According to FEMA, floods have caused more than $7 billion in flood losses in the U.S. in the last 10 years. About 25% of claims come from outside of high-risk flood areas. FEMA advises that being insured against this possibility is one of the best forms of protection. Since flooding isn't covered under your homeowner's insurance policy, the best way to protect your home is through the National Flood Insurance Program.  If your insurange agent or your insurance company does not write flood insurance policies, you can contact FEMA or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and they will put you in touch with an agent who does. Homeowners insurance covers many hazards, however, flooding isn't one of them. Even so, many people think that Federal Disaster Assistance will cover then...but it won't! To be elegible, the President must first declare a flood a Federal Disaster and the assistance that you do receive is usually a loan that has to be repaid with interest. For more information go to www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-888-724-6924 and ask for an agent in your area.

HOME SAFETY CHECKLIST

FIRES AND BURNS:

SMOKE ALARMS: According to the Home Safety Council, the majority of home fire deaths happen at night, most often from smoke and poisonous gasses, not the fire itself. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, workshop and outside all sleeping areas. for extra protection, consider installing a smoke alarm in every bedroom. be sure to test batteries at least once a month and never remove the batteries from your smoke alarm except to replace them. HOME ESCAPE PLAN: Make your plan now, before you need it. Have at least 2 exits from every room and a meeting place outside the home. conduct a home fire drill with everyone in your household at least twice a year. Most people underestimate how fast a fire spreads. you may have as little as 2 minutes to get your family to dafety. Plan and practive exactly what to do in advance. LIST OF EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS: Post a list of emergency phone numbers including the police, fire, doctord and poison prevention centers at every telephone in the home. In the event of a fire, call the fire department from outside the burning building. FIRE EXTINGUISHERS: a multipurpose dry chemical class ABC fire extinguisher is the best choice for general home use. Mount the extinguisher on a cracket on the wall near an exit so that anyone using it can escape from the room if a fire spreads. Periodically check the gauge to make sure it has pressure. All adult occupants of the home must know when and how to use the extinguisher properly.
SLIPS AND FALLS:
GRAB BARS: Install grab bars in all bathrooms and shower stalls. Firmly anchor them into the wall studs with long screws or follow installation instructions on packaging. SLIP-RESISTANT: Use a non-slip mat, or install strips or decals in bathtubs ans showers to help prevent slipping. SUFFICIENT LIGHTING: Use nightlights near bathrooms, bedrooms and stairwells. Make sure stairwells and hallways are always well lit-especially at night. Provide sufficient lighting to all walkways and entrances to your home. According to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal and unintentional injuries occuring at home and accounted for 5.6 million injuries.
POISONINGS:
POISON CENTERS: Every Poison control center in the country can be reached by calling the AAPCC nationwide hotline at 1-8002221222. Post this number, along with your other emergency numbers, by every phone in your home. If you think someone is poisoned, call the poison center immediately. experts will answer your call 24/7. MEDICINES AND HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS: Make sure all medications, caustic cleaning products like drain openers, bleach, toilet and oven cleaners, etc. automotive fluids like windshield washing solution and antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers and other household chemicals are in their original containers and in a locked cabinet. Buy medicines and household products in child-resistant packaging. Close caps tightly after using. Lock medicines and household productd up high so children can't see or reach them. According to the Home Safety Council, more than 69% of homes with children under 6 report that household chemicals are stored in unlocked places. CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS: carbon monoxide gas is poisonous but you can't see, smell or taste it. check all fuel-burning appliances to be sure they work properly...furnace, hot water heater, stove, oven, fireplace, wood stove, and space heaters. Put a carbon monoxide alarm near where people sleep. Be sure your alarm has the Underwriters Laboratories UL 2034 label. For more information visitwww.homesafetycouncil.org or write: Home Safety Council, 1725 Eye St., NW suite 300, Washington, DC 20006