Summertime is the peak season for one of nature’s deadliest weather phenomena-lightning. According to the National Weather Service, during the past 30 years, approximately 67 people in the United States are killed each year, which is more than the average of people killed annually by tornadoes or hurricanes.
No place is absolutely safe from lightning; however some are safer than others. Following safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death from a lightning strike.
- When indoors, avoid using the telephone, (cord or cordless), taking a shower (metal pipes can conduct electricity), doing the dishes or contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside such as metal doors or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable T.V. wiring, plumbing, etc.
- Unplug all electrical equipment before the storm reaches your home, but do not unplug the equipment while the storm is active in your area. Only turning off the equipment will not protect it from a lightning strike. Also unplug any internet cables that are connected into the walls.
- Stay away from the windows and pull the shades if available, this will help keep the glass from flying into the room if the window should break.
- If you need to make an emergency phone call, use a cell phone if accessible.
- If you are caught inside a vehicle, roll the windows up and try not to make contact with the metal or other conducting surfaces of the vehicle.
- Should you be caught outside in a lightning storm, avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, bleachers, flagpoles, golf carts and open water. Keep at least 15 feet away from other people. Use the shelter of the shortest trees if you are caught in a forest, lightning will strike the tallest objects first normally. If you have no protection available, stay as low to the ground as possible and curl into the smallest position possible and cover your ears to protect your hearing.
Remember, lightning can strike up to a distance of 10 miles in front of the storm, so be prepared and plan ahead, keep track of local storms on the radio or television.
Never touch a downed power line. Call your electric co-op to report it immediately. Avoid contact with overhead lines during cleanup and other activities. Assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged.
If water has risen above the electrical outlets in your home, contact a licensed electrician before turning on your main circuit breaker. Outlets and wiring that have come in contact with water could present a fire and shock hazard.
Allow all electrical appliance and electronic equipment, once submerged, to dry thoroughly. Have them checked by a qualified repair person before turning them on.
Look for and replace damaged extension and appliance cords, loose prongs, or plugs.
Accidentally contacting a power line can be dangerous and in some cases, even deadly. Your Touchstone Energy cooperative wants to help our members stay safe around power lines.
Keep a safe distance
Whether you are playing outdoors with your children or working on landscaping projects, keep a safe distance from power lines and other equipment your co-op uses to get electricity to your home.
Always remember to:
- Stay away from power lines, meters, transformers and electrical boxes.
- Don’t climb trees near power lines.
- Never fly kits, remote control airplanes or balloons near power lines.
- If you get something stuck in a power line, call your Touchstone Energy co-op to get it.
- Keep a safe distance from overhead power lines when working with ladders or installing objects such as antennas.
- Never touch or go near a downed power line.
- Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
- Keep children and pets away.
If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay. Warn people not to touch the car or the line. Call or ask someone to call the local cooperative and emergency services.
The only circumstance in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire. Open the door. Do not step out of the car. You may receive a shock. Instead, jump free of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company's Service Center/Dispatch Office.
Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.
Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits
When power lines are down, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.
When using gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help protect utility line workers or other repair workers or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings to at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.
Effects of Backfeed
The problem of backfeed in electrical energy is a potential risk for electrical energy workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths. Following the safety guidelines below can reduce this risk.
Other Generator Hazards
Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators should only be used in well ventilated areas.