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Safety after the Storm and During Power Outages

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Storm Safety Kit

Severe storms are devastating to homes, properties, and lives. These storms can also take down power lines—creating a dangerous situation for all of us, including the line crews working hard to get your power turned back on.

How long it takes to get your power restored depends on the extent of the storm’s destruction, the number of outages, and the point when it is safe for utility personnel to get to the damaged areas. There are many steps in the assessment and restoration process—clearing downed power lines; ensuring public health and safety facilities are operational; checking power stations and transformers; repairing transmission lines, substations, and distribution lines; and getting power restored to customers within the damaged areas.

Contact your electric utility to report the outage and use caution if venturing outside after a storm:

  • Just because power lines are damaged does not mean they are dead. Every downed power line is potentially energized and dangerous until utility crews arrive on the scene to ensure power has been cut off. Downed power lines, stray wires, and debris in contact with them all have the potential to deliver a fatal shock. Stay far away and keep others away from downed power lines.
  • Never enter a flooded basement if electrical outlets are submerged. The water could be energized.
  • Do not turn power off if you must stand in water to do so. Call your electric utility and have them turn off power at the meter.
  • Before entering storm-damaged buildings, make sure electricity and gas are turned off.
  • Do not use water-damaged electric appliances, electronics and other items before having them inspected and properly restored. Electric motors in appliances should be cleaned and reconditioned before use. It may be necessary to replace some appliances and electronics.
  • If you clean-up outdoors after a storm, do not use electric equipment in wet conditions.
  • If you are driving and come across a downed power line, stay away and keep others away. Do not drive over it, as snagging the line could pull a pole and other equipment to the ground. Contact emergency personnel or your utility company to address the downed power line.
  • If you come in contact with a downed power line, do not leave the car. Wait for utility and emergency professionals to make sure the power line is de-energized before exiting the car.

During an outage, Safe Electricity recommends turning off electrical appliances and unplugging major electronics, including computers and televisions. Power sometimes comes back in surges, which can damage electronics. Your circuits could overload when power returns if all your electrical items are on. Leave one light on to indicate that power is back on. Wait a few minutes and then turn on other appliances and equipment—one at a time.

If you use a standby generator, take proper safety precautions. Always read and follow all manufacturer operating instructions. There should be nothing plugged into the generator when you turn it on. This prevents a surge from damaging your generator and appliances. Operate generators in well-ventilated, outdoor, dry areas. Never attach a temporary generator to a circuit breaker, fuse, or outlet; plug items into the generator once it’s operating.

Permanent generators should be wired into a house by a qualified electrician and include a transfer switch to prevent feeding electricity back into overhead lines, which can be deadly for linemen.

To help you get through, have a storm kit prepared. Keep the kit in a cool, dry place, and make sure all members of the family know where it is.

For information on when to save and when to throw out refrigerated food after a power outage, go to FoodSafety.gov.