The recent devastating flooding in Houston following Hurricane Harvey has brought awareness of the dangers of flooding to the forefront of public consciousness. If you live in a flood zone, you should be aware of the electrical hazards that arise when your home and property flood.
Wading through waist-deep — or even knee-deep — flood water can be hazardous from many angles, including from an electrical one. Just days ago, a young man trying to rescue his sister’s cat from her flooded home resulted in his being killed by electrocution when his foot touched a live wire that was hidden under the flood waters. His sad fate should be a lesson to any and all who live in a flood zone or who find themselves caught in an unexpected flooding situation even where flooding would not normally be expected to occur. Here’s what you need to know …
Once a flood occurs, people are understandably in a hurry to get back to their homes to survey the damage and see what — if anything — can be salvaged. But you need to know that even when power is off, you’re still in danger of being electrocuted by wires and appliances that are submerged. Sometimes, you’ll see sparks or hear buzzing, but not always. The truth is, that removing the meter from the socket is the only way the house can be completely disconnected from the grid, and this is a task that should only be performed by a licensed (and insured) electrician! After the waters subside, you can be pretty confident that anything electrical that was submerged — even for a brief period of time — is permanently ruined. Here’s a list of the numerous electrical components you’ll more than likely have to replace …
- all Romex (plastic-sheathed) wiring
- BX (armored) cable
- your home’s electrical panel and circuit breakers (or fuse box and fuses)
- sub panels
- switched disconnect boxes
- electrical switches and outlets
- electric motors
- circuit boards
- non-submersible pumps
- air conditioners
- space heaters
- boilers and furnaces
An HVAC service professional can advise you on your boiler or furnace and air conditioning units, but everything else should be inspected by a licensed electrician who can let you know whether these items are safe to use again, or whether removal and replacement are your only options.
A licensed electrician should survey your entire electrical system, including its grounding and bonding components, which can be severely damaged by flooding.
Precautions to Take
If you’re forced — or feel compelled — to enter your home while flood waters remain, take the precaution of wearing rubber chest waders and clipping a light to your hat rather than carrying a flashlight. This is one time when the “buddy system” is imperative. Bring along a similarly attired friend so that one of your can go for help should something go wrong. Even if you feel that you know every inch of your home, when it’s dark and flooded, it’s easier than you think to get disoriented.
Remember the Official Motto of the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared
If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, it’s a good idea to have an emergency bag that’s packed and ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Fill it with the following items:
- enough food, drinking water, and cash to get you and your family through a few days
- your homeowner’s insurance policy numbers and the phone number of your insurance agent
- a few days’ worth of clothing
- some basic toiletries such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, a comb or hairbrush, travel sized shampoo and deodorant, and a couple of towels.
- one or more bottles containing a few of each of any medications you or your family take on a daily basis
Finally, be sure that your insurance policy includes flood insurance since restoring your home will be expensive. Many people assume that their policies include coverage for flooding, but most don’t!
Whether you live in a flood zone or not, when you find yourself in need of the services of a licensed electrician in the Las Vegas – Henderson region, don’t hesitate to contact us at Penny Electric!