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Hurricane life-saving information: before and after the storm

October 3, 2022

Remember, downed power lines don’t have to be arcing or sparking to be dangerous. Stay away and contact authorities.

Springfield, Ill. — Hurricanes bring a number of dangers — before, during, and after the storm. Hurricanes bring high winds, storm surge and tornados, and they leave damage in their wake —including flooding and electrical hazards.

While not every tropical storm becomes a hurricane or makes landfall, the National Hurricane Center reports that roughly five hurricanes strike the U.S. coastline during an average three-year period, and these hurricanes result in approximately 50 to 100 fatalities.

“After a storm, limbs and debris may hide an electrical hazard. Treat all downed power lines as if they are energized,” advises Erin Hollinshead, executive director of Safe Electricity. “Have a disaster supply kit on hand, and check it annually to update its contents.”

To help keep you safe after the hurricane has passed, Safe Electricity offers these tips:

1. Just because power lines are damaged does not mean they are dead. Downed power lines, stray wires and debris in contact with them all have the potential to deliver a fatal shock. Stay away, and instruct others to do the same.

2. Never enter a flooded basement if electrical outlets are under water. The water could be energized.

3. Do not use water-damaged electronics before properly restoring them. Electric motors in appliances should be cleaned and reconditioned before use. It may be necessary to replace some of your appliances and electronics. Have your water-damaged items inspected and approved by a professional before using them.

4. If you are driving and encounter a downed power line, stay away and warn others to stay away. Contact emergency personnel or your utility company to address the downed power line. Wait until utility workers give the go-ahead before exiting the car.

5. If using a portable generator, there are important safeguards to take:
– Read and follow all manufacturer’s operating instructions. Be sure you understand them before hooking up the generator.
– Never operate a generator in a confined area, such as a garage. Generators can produce numerous gases, including toxic and deadly carbon monoxide. Generators require proper ventilation.
– Know that generators pose electrical risks, especially when operated in wet conditions. Use a generator only when necessary when the weather creates wet or moist conditions. Protect the generator by operating it under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under it. Always ensure that your hands are dry before touching the generator.
– When refueling, make sure the engine is cool to prevent a fire, should the tank overflow.
– Ensure nothing is plugged into the generator when you turn it on. This prevents a surge from damaging your generator and appliances.
– Keep children and pets away from the generator, which could burn them.
– Shut down the generator properly. Before shutting it down, turn off and unplug all appliances and equipment being powered by the generator.
– Remember maintenance between uses. It is also a good idea to inspect the fuel and oil filters, spark plug, oil level and fuel quality and to start the generator on a regular basis before an emergency occurs.

Help keep your family safe when a hurricane threat presents itself. For more information visit SafeElectricity.org.

Safe Electricity is the award-winning, public awareness program of the Energy Education Council, a 501(c) 3 established in 1952 on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With offices located in Springfield, Ill., Safe Electricity operates under the University of Illinois Extension and is led by the Safe Electricity/EEC Board of Directors. Since the Safe Electricity program was created in 2001, it has provided thousands of safety-minded resources to its more than 500 utility members from across the country to help save lives and reduce injuries.


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Storm Safety Kit

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