Rising Waters: Electrical Safety Awareness in a Flood
One of the most devastating natural disasters is a flood. In additional to the potential for loss of life through drowning, the destruction of property can be significant, requiring significant time to recover from the devastation. When the initial impact of the disaster has passed, there is a natural proclivity to get back to a sense of normalcy; however, attempting to move too quickly in getting things back to the way there were, prior to the disaster, people often put themselves at unnecessary risk. One way that they do this is by ignoring the danger of live electrical wiring.
Fortunately, there a several steps that people can take when attempting to resume their lives after a flood, reducing the risk of being accidentally electrocuted.
One of the most common places where accidental electrocution takes place is in structures that are still flooded, with basements at the top of the list.
Never Blindly Enter a Basement that Still Has Standing Water in It
Once a basement has been flooded, it will be necessary to have the utility company, or a licensed electrician, come out to check for live wires and to disconnect the power source to the home. It is common knowledge that water is an excellent conductor of electricity, but it is surprising how many people completely ignore that fact during a flood. It could be that exposure to so much water over a certain period can desensitize a person to its presence, but whatever the reason, ignoring the danger associated with the mixture of water and electricity is not a good idea.
The reason that it is a good idea to have a professional come out to the home is that the only way to ensure that the electrical connection to the home is completely severed is to remove the electrical meter from the home, and that has to be done by a trained professional.
Discard All Electrical Equipment Impacted by the Flood
While the idea is to recover and save as much of the property as possible, people should understand that any electrical equipment that has come in contact with the flood waters will most likely being permanently damaged. Even if it is still operable it will pose a fire hazard. All Electronics will have to be replaced. Very few electronic devices in residential homes have the electrical rating that will allow them to survive submersion, even when it is only submersed for a short period of time.
Give Careful Attention to Grounding and Bonding
Before resuming business as usual, it will be necessary to contact an electrical professional like the ones at ElectricalConnection.org to have them come out to conduct a thorough inspection of the grounding and bonding components of the home’s electrical system. Every home has two primary aspects to its electrical system — the part of the system that is designed to carry electrical current throughout the home, and the part that is designed to direct electrical current into the ground if something were to go wrong. The latter component of the system is known as the grounding and bonding system, and it is immensely vulnerable to damage from flood waters.
Once the system has been examined, and all damaged parts replaced by a professional electrician, other electrical components within the home can be addressed.
Even after a professional has completely disconnected a building from the electric grid, a person should never attempt to enter a building unaccompanied, until the building has been declared safe for reentry. When entering a building that still has standing water, it will be necessary to be properly prepared and equipped.
The person should have on chest-high waders, and they should carry a flashlight that can be clipped to the waders or the hat, eliminating the need for the individual to carry it in their hands. The most important thing is to have someone present in case the person finds themselves in a situation in which they need some assistance.
When a building has been flooded, and the electrical current disconnected, it will be dark, with visibility being at a minimum. It is also likely to be very slippery and difficult to navigate, increasing the risk of injury. When a room is submersed under water, it is impossible to know what is on the floor, or to detect any types of holes or pits in the floor. It is better to proceed with extreme caution than to rush in. The damage has already been done, so rushing in will not change anything, other than increasing the risk of injury or death.
Max Douglas is a health and safety inspector who has experience working with schools, offices as well as residential properties carrying out safety assessments. His informative articles appear online on both business sites and homeowner blogs.