Published on May 28th, 2020 | by Bibhuranjan0
Flood Damage and Electrical Safety
When you experience a minor or major flood in your home, there are a ton of things that cross your mind. You may worry about the safety of your family, the damage to your home’s structure, or the potential loss of possessions – especially photo albums or other memories that may be kept in a basement or storage space. The one thing that is probably not at the top of your mind during a flood situation is electrical safety. Water and electricity are a dangerous combination, and if any water reaches the electrical equipment in your home you could be dealing with a serious risk to your family’s safety. Whether you attempt to use electrical circuits during or after a flood, there is a good chance that moisture and contaminants have come into contact with wiring or electrical equipment in your home. You should think twice about electricity use before a certified electrician has assessed your home’s electrical system.
If your household encounters a flood, follow the tips below to help keep your family safe from electrical hazards.
What to do before evacuation
Before you vacate the flooded area, shut off electrical power by flipping the main service switch in your home. This is usually located in your home’s main electricity panel.
Remember to keep yourself and others safe! If serious flooding is imminent and it is not safe for you to remain in the area, you may not have time to turn off the power. In this situation, move as many pieces of electrical equipment as possible above where you think the flood line will be, and leave quickly. If you must leave without doing any of these things, make sure that no one enters the household without letting them know that there may be electrical hazards inside.
Safety tips for cleaning up damp and wet locations
Once you begin to clean up after a flood, remember that even if you do not see any wiring or electrical equipment that has been touched by the flood, you never know what is behind walls or under floors. To help you reduce the risk of electrocution, install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in damp or wet locations. GFCIs can be attached to outlets, and are often found in kitchens and bathrooms. Make sure you have one of these devices while operating a wet vacuum or any other equipment as you clean up your home.
Reconditioning flood or water damaged equipment
Under no circumstances should you try to use electrical appliances that were damp or wet until they have been inspected by a licensed electrician. While some devices can be safety serviced after a flood, other items cannot be salvaged after being submerged. Items that must be replaced after being submerged include: circuit breakers, fuses, GFCI’s, disconnect switches, AFCI’s, and surge protective devices. For your safety, these items cannot be salvaged as there is no way to check that they will consistently work properly after being submerged. Other items that have been submerged such as panelboards, switchgear, electric motors, transformers, receptacles, boilers, electric heaters, light fixtures, switches, water heaters, ovens, and dishwashers either need to be replaced, serviced by the original manufacturer, or serviced by a technician recognized by the manufacturer. In some cases, electrical wiring in your home can be salvaged, but in other circumstances it may need to be replaced after a flood. Your licensed electrician will be able to assess the extent of the damage to your wiring and help you decide what is best. Once any piece of electrical equipment is replaced, the old equipment should be destroyed and never salvaged for another project.
It is never a good idea to let electrical devices ‘dry out’ and begin using them again before a professional has inspected the device. Even if there is no visible damage, there may be small scale damage that causes the device to work improperly and become a hazard. Water is not the only thing that can damage your electrical devices during a flood – many homeowners are not aware that floodwaters carry pollutants such as dirt and chemicals that can also cause damage to your electrical devices.
Returning to the home after a flood
When you finally get to return home after a flood, there are a few precautions that you must take in the flood damaged area. It is important to stay away from electrical wires, and if the water is deep enough, do not venture into a pool of water without proper equipment. Electricity can travel through water, so make sure that electricity is turned off before entering the flooded area. Before any electrical equipment is inspected or worked on, you should make sure that no electricity is running to your home. If you did not turn off the main power switch before vacating your home, contact your local electric utility provider to have power disconnected from your property. Once it is safe to enter, you should have a licensed electrician inspect your home’s main panel and circuits.
How to get reconnected
If your electrical power has been disconnected for safety reasons, you will need to make sure your home’s electrical system is safe before reconnecting power. Once a certified electrician has inspected the damage and performed any necessary repairs and replacements, your home should be inspected once more before it is granted access to reconnect. This rigorous process is designed to make sure that your home is safe and that the electrical system is fit for safe use.
Additional considerations for homeowners
If time permits, there are a few other things that you should look for in the event of a flood. If there are dangerous chemicals including weed repellant, insecticide, or corrosives near the flooded area, move them to a dry area to reduce the chance of your electrical equipment being contaminated. Additionally, be sure to shut off the electrical power and/or gas supply valves to gas and oil fired appliances. As mentioned above, if the flood is an emergency situation and you do not have time to complete these tasks, do not put yourself at risk.
Whether your home has recently been flooded, or you want to prepare yourself for future emergencies, our team is happy to help. Contact our expert electricians today!