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Electrical Safety During Storms
May 2013


Severe storms and natural disasters can cause a variety of electrical safety hazards in and around our homes. Lightning, downed power lines, and floods are just a few of the serious safety concerns associated with storms.

Unfortunately, many of these electrical safety hazards remain long after the storm itself has passed. Here are some tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to help you and your loved ones stay safe during and after storms.


Though you may feel that you are miles away from lightning, it can strike anywhere and it is always looking for a path to the ground. You should take precautions to ensure that lightning’s path does not pass through a human body to get to the ground. There is not always warning before lightning strikes, so be prepared at all times.

If you are outside during a lightning storm:

  • Move to a low point. Lightning strikes the tallest available object.
  • Stay away from trees.
  • Avoid metal and water; don’t hold on to metal bats, golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets, fences, sheds, poles, etc. Stay away from anything damp, including grass.
  • Don’t stand near other people. Spread out.

If you are driving when a lightning storms strikes:

  • Slow down and use extra caution; pull off the road into a safe area if possible.
  • Do not leave your vehicle and do not use electronic devices while in the vehicle.

If you are inside your home during a lightning storm:

  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • If possible, unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives; avoid contact with electrical equipment during storms.
  • Avoid contact with water and plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Use only cordless or cell phones; corded telephones should be used only for emergencies.

Downed Power Lines

These pose severe and possibly lethal threats. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and if you see a power line down remain at least 10 feet away from the line and anything touching it. The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times.

  • If you see a person in contact with the downed power line call 911 immediately. Do not touch the person or you could be the next victim.
  • Do not attempt to move or drive over a downed power line.
  • If you are in your car and it is in contact with a power line, stay in the car and warn others to stay away from the vehicle and call for help. If your vehicle is on fire, jump out of the car with both feet together and shuffle away as directed above.

Flooded Areas

Standing water should always be approached with extreme caution. Submerged outlets or electrical cords in a flooded basement can energize the water and pose a lethal trap.

  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer.
  • Electrical items such as circuit breakers, fuses and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them if they have been submerged.

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