The month of May is designated as National Electrical Safety Month by the Electrical Safety foundation International (ESFI). This year’s focus is on electrical safety during natural disasters. Storms, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters can wreak havoc on communities. They present opportunities for electrical hazards. Everything from downed power lines to bad mixes of water and electricity can occur during these disasters.
This month is dedicated to educating everyone about how to stay safe during natural disasters when electrical safety can mean the difference between life and death.
3 types of electrical issues in a natural disaster
The first thing recommended in regard to power lines is always look up. Downed power lines may be draped over trees or roofs waiting for a gust of wind or other action to get them down to the ground. These deadly lines may be silent, so keep your eyes ahead and upward looking everywhere for hazards.
Once you have located intact power lines, stay at least 10 feet away from them. If they fall, you will be out of the way. If a power line is already down, do not touch anything that may be coming into contact with the line. Stay 35 feet away from them. Lastly and always, carry all tall equipment horizontally. A ladder accidentally touching power lines could be life-ending.
Before a big storm like a hurricane begins, turn off the power to your home at the main breaker panel. If flooding occurs, have your system inspected before turning it on again. Don’t use electric equipment or devices that were submerged. All generators should be equipped with GFCI. There are all sorts of hazards that can present themselves in the home during a natural disaster. Being cognizant of potential hazards will keep you safe.
If you own your own business or are responsible for one, you should have an emergency plan. If you don’t already have a plan set up, there is no time like the present to get started. This will make sure that you don’t forget anything, and your business will be secure from electrical hazards. Unplug all computers and electronics. Switch off any breakers requested by your utility company. Charge communication devices. Once a storm has passed or a disaster is resolving, do not enter flooded areas. They may contain shock hazards. Use GFCI-equipped generators. Similarly to your home, don’t turn everything back on until it has been inspected by a certified electrician.
One of the major issues with natural disasters is loss of electricity, which can mean loss of communication, heat, and food among other things. There are proactive measures one can take to minimize the risk of electricity loss.
Home standby generators are meant to keep all or some of your house powered when standard electricity goes out. They can be powered by natural gas lines, liquid fuel, or batteries (generally speaking). In some cases, especially when powered by natural gas lines, home standby generators can keep a whole home running when the power goes out because of the limitless supply of gas. In other cases, homes with limited fuel sources may choose to only power necessary items such as refrigerators or heaters.
Alternatively, portable generators can be enough to provide light, power cell phones, and maybe even provide power for heaters or fans. Large generators may be able to power appliances. The key to success when planning for a generator is to consider what you would want to power if you lost electricity for a week.
A smart community investment that will provide more electricity assurance during natural disasters is a microgrid. A microgrid is a smaller grid separate from the main grid that delivers power from alternative methods such as solar or wind. If the main grid is disrupted, these alternative grids can redirect power where it is missing. Microgrids are relatively new to communities across the nation. They show promise in a world with aging electrical infrastructure and many natural disasters that disrupt electricity.
Lastly, you can invest in alternative energy options for your home’s main power. People commonly use solar panels on the roof as a form of alternative energy. Oftentimes, natural disasters impact those who are quite a distance from the actual disaster because of large losses on the grid. Those with electrical resources that are independent of the grid are not affected as much.
It can be difficult to fully rely on alternative energy, but homes can opt to have both solar panels and be hooked up to the grid. The owners get the best of both worlds.
National Electrical Safety Month in May
There are many reasons to engage in electrical safety month in May that have nothing to do with natural disasters. Electrical hazards are practically everywhere. The sentiment of the safety month is not focused only on natural disasters. However, electrical injuries in addition to a natural disaster are an added insult to injury, and they can be avoided.