From Scott Carlberg

Wind is an obvious safety issue in hurricanes. Another important aspect of storms is the immense water damage they can cause in rain and tides A number of resources discuss this important concern. ECC is not a safety expert, but here are a few resources that may be helpful, though. Remember to always listen to emergency management officials and your utility about energy safety. Do your own homework.

Popular Mechanics ran a safety column about the time Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast a year ago: 4 Rules for Electrical Safety After a Flood. Its four rules:

  1. Never go into a flood-damaged basement or a basement filled with water until the utility company, fire department, or a licensed electrician has removed the home’s electrical meter from its socket.
  2. Once the building is pumped out and you begin recovery efforts, keep in mind that all flooded electrical equipment is almost certainly ruined.
  3. Pay increased attention to grounding and bonding, and after the flood ask an electrician to conduct a thorough survey the system.
  4. Even after the building is fully disconnected from the grid, never go into a flooded building alone. Put on chest waders, and bring a bright flashlight that clips to your hat or your waders so you don’t have to carry it. But most importantly, have someone standing by in case you need help.

Florence 9/10/18. Image courtesy NOAA.

Another source of information is the Energy Education Council, which suggests, among other actions:

  • 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 utility to shut off power at the meter.
  • Never use electric appliances or touch electric wires, switches or fuses when you’re wet or when you’re standing in water.

The site has more advice.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International notes, “Ocean water and salt spray can be particularly damaging to electrical equipment due to the corrosive and conductive nature of the salt water residue. Even with professional cleaning and drying, sediments and toxins from floodwater are difficult to remove. In the aftermath of a flood, there may be hidden electrical hazards.” Have a professional check electric items after a flood. The ESFI has a neat pdf about flood safety here.

Local utilities have good advice, too. From Duke Energy’s website:

  • Don’t touch or attempt to move any downed lines.
  • Don’t touch anyone or anything in contact with a downed electrical line.

When it comes to transformers, from the Duke site:

  • Stay away from transformers. They are generally green and mounted on concrete slabs, and are found where there are underground power lines.
  • Never attempt to open the door of one of these transformers.

Before and after: Goldsboro, NC From October 11-16, 2016, the National Geodetic Survey collected imagery of areas in North Carolina to help assess damage caused by river flooding due to heavy rains from Matthew. The aerial imagery was collected in areas identified by FEMA and the National Weather Service. (Image: NOAA)

Duke Energy also has a page about flooding guidelines.

Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina provide flood safety measures. Some of them:

  • If you see a downed power line, stay away and call 911. If you’re driving, and a power line falls across your vehicle, stay inside until help arrives.
  • If floodwaters are approaching your home, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box and unplug appliances.
  • If water covers electrical outlets or plugged-in cords, stay away. The same goes if you hear buzzing, snapping, crackling or popping sounds.
  • Before entering a flood-damaged home or building, make sure the power is off and don’t attempt to reset circuit breakers until all water has receded.
  • If your home loses power, call your local electric coop [or utility].

SCE&G reminds us that energy includes natural gas and has its own safety rules, too. Nat Gas safety ideas are here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides this: “If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.”

Finally, the Red Cross has a booklet called “Repairing Your Flooded Home” that has numerous pointers about getting back into your house after a flood.

Everyone needs to be prepared to be safe. Check these and other sources for good safety information as we face Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.