Beware of Water Damage to Your Electrical System
Water, water, everywhere…please don’t touch a thing!
Although there is no official “flood season” in the U.S., most flooding occurs in the early spring and fall, most commonly in areas where the topography is below sea level. Last year, 14 million people were affected by flooding and 200 million were at risk.
The places most susceptible to flooding may surprise you. Cities like Miami, FL and Charleston, SC certainly made the list. But, so did New York, NY, where 300,000 people live less than a meter above sea level, and Newark, NJ. Don’t underestimate the risks of flash flooding in places nowhere near an ocean as these natural events can be destructive to homes and property too. In some places, a hurricane might bring lots of wind and then far too much water.
The U.S. states most at risk are Florida, Louisiana, California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Georgia. If you’re a resident, it’s always best to be aware of the precautions you should take should the weather turn, especially when it comes to your electrical safety.
While these tips are primarily about how to protect your property and investments, it should also be said that there are health risks to interacting with electricity when there is water. Always use extra caution to be safe! Electric shock does happen and it can be fatal.
If you are in a high-risk area - then it is important to follow these important safety tips to make sure these electrical dangers don’t happen to you.
- NEVER step into a flooded room with electrical appliances or wiring, especially if the water line has risen above outlets, baseboard heaters/furnaces, power cords or electrical panels. Make sure the power has been turned off before stepping into a flooded room. *Contact your utility company, fire department or a Mister Sparky electrician to make sure the electricity is truly disconnected.
- Do NOT touch any electrical system or device with wet hands or while standing in water. Water is a powerful conductor! Even if the power is out you can still get electrocuted if someone is operating a generator nearby or back-feeding electricity into a flooded grid.
- Be sure to have your wiring checked once it is safe to do so and have the damage assessed. If you’re close to the ocean, saltwater can corrode electrical equipment.
- Water can bring unwanted toxins and sediments into your home. Use a wet-dry vacuum or pressure washer - and think about having a professional cleaner or drying service tackle your home.
- Keep electrical tools away from wet surfaces by at least 10 feet. We know you’ll want to spruce up after the storm – but try to refrain from using electric equipment if your yard is still wet.
- Know the code. Check out the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) guide for advice on electronics that may need to be replaced or repaired by a professional technician. Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) also has a helpful and educational guide to rebuilding and renovating water-damaged electrical systems.
- Don’t Drink the Water. Determine if the water was tainted in some way. Did salt from ocean waters corrode your appliances? Or was it something more pervasive, like oil?
- Calculate how much time your electronics might have spent in the water.
- Call a professional! Everywhere you look, whether it’s on the NEC or ESFI, the biggest takeaway is to Contact an Experienced Electrician. Don’t do this alone or unassisted. Professional technicians know the codes, the materials and the proper safety practices necessary to get the job done.
- If you removed electronic devices and appliances from a flooded area, don’t be in a rush to put them back as there could be lingering moisture that could cause damage. There could also still be a risk of electric shock when plugging things back in if they are still wet in places where you cannot see.
Make sure to visit ESFI.org for more information on electrical safety during floods. Take care to make sure electrical wires aren’t exposed. If they have been, if they are corroded, it may be time to replace. First, you must follow these important steps before attempting to handle water-damaged items.
If you find that your electrical system has been exposed to water – for any length of time –contact your local Mister Sparky for an evaluation.