In the spring, when the snow begins to melt and the potential for flooding increases, Gunnison County Electric Association reminds members to beware of the dangers that are present when water comes in contact with electricity. To protect against the unexpected loss of life, GCEA has some important safety advice:
When a flood warning is issued, unplug and move all your portable electrical appliances above the estimated flood height. Then, GCEA recommends turning off the electricity at the main supply if you know how to do it safely. Older homes usually have a fuse box, while newer homes will have a circuit breaker. The illustration below shows how to turn off the electricity at either source.
Turn off the electricity at a breaker box
- Stand on a dry spot.
- Use a dry wooden stick or pole to open the door.
- Use the stick to push the main breaker switch to OFF.
- Use the stick to turn each circuit breaker to OFF.
Turn off the electricity at a fuse box
- Stand on a dry spot.
- If your box has a handle on the side, use a dry wooden stick or pole to pull the handle to OFF.
- Use the stick to open the door.
- Carefully pull out the main fuses.
- Unscrew and remove each circuit's fuse.
When you return home following a flood, there are hidden electrical hazards throughout your home," says Roger Grogg, GCEA's Chief Operations Officer. Taking the time to find and fix these electrical dangers can prevent an even greater loss than that of personal property. GCEA encourages families to keep the electricity off until the system has been checked by a qualified electrician to make sure it is free of trapped water or moisture. All electrical appliances exposed to floodwater should also be checked.
- 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.
- If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and reconditioned by a qualified service repairman. Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.
- Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician check the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use.
- Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
- Electrical circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs, and switches can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them when they have been submerged.
- When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.
- Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on the three-prong plug.
- Take care when stepping into a flooded basement, and be aware that submerged outlets, electrical outlets or electrical cords may be energizing the water, which is a potentially lethal trap.
Because electrical current can travel through water electrocution is a major killer during floods. If you see any downed power lines during or after the flood, you should report them to GCEA immediately by calling 970-641-3520.