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What to do in an Electrical Emergency

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Experiencing an electrical emergency can be scary and frustrating, but knowing how to handle the situation can help you remain safe and take the correct steps in resolving the issue. At Peters Electric, we’ve put together a list of common electrical emergencies and how to handle them.

Power Outages

This is one of the most common electrical emergencies homeowners face, with blackouts and power failures occurring for a variety of different reasons. Power outages can be caused by storms, downed power lines, or an issue with your home’s power lines. Power outages are not only frustrating, but they can also be dangerous for your appliances.

To protect your home and family during a power outage, be sure to:

Determine the Source of the Outage

In some cases, the cause of an outage is something simple, like a tripped breaker or a short-circuit. Be sure to first check and reset your breakers.

Prepare Your Home

Keep a power outage emergency kit handy, equipped with alternative cooking and heating options, candles, water supplies, and a battery-powered radio and mobile charging station.

Shut off All Electrical Appliances

When a power outage occurs, be sure to shut off all of your electrical appliances via the circuit breaker, shutting off the branch breakers first before shutting off the main breaker. Also, be sure your electronics are plugged into surge protectors, so they are protected when the power comes back on.

Reset Appliances and Lights Safely

When the power comes back on, wait a few minutes before turning on appliances and lights. IF the energy returning to the electrical grid is inconsistent, it could damage your electronics. Also, turn on the main breaker first, then the branch breakers.

If you need an uninterrupted power supply for things such as life-supporting medical equipment, you can speak with your distributor to set up an uninterrupted supply. Other options for keeping the power on include battery banks and backup generators.
It is important to make sure your electrical hookups are properly maintained and working in the event of an emergency.
Electrical Fires

In some cases, an electrical fire is caused by a short in a circuit; other times, it may be caused by a frayed cord that was placed near curtains or other flammable material. Regardless of what causes the electrical fire, they are extremely dangerous to deal with.
It is important to have an emergency response procedure for dealing with electrical fires to ensure you and your family are safe. Procedures to follow during an electrical fire include:
Turn off the power

This is the first step you should take to ensure you cut the power from the electrical system that is causing the problem by flipping the switch on your breaker box. Avoid unplugging the appliance or flipping the switch, especially if the fire is caused by a frayed wire or overheated appliance. Shutting off the power from the breaker box should be enough to keep the fire from starting and also eliminates the risk for anyone handling the fire of being electrocuted. It also allows you to use more resources to stop the flame.

Use a fire extinguisher

If you don’t have one in the home, be sure to get one and educate everyone in the home how to use it to put out an electrical fire. If you can’t cut the power, use a Class C-rated extinguisher, which is carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers. If you were able to cut the power, you could use a water-based Class A-rated extinguisher. To use an extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin depressing the handle
  • Point the horn at the base of the fire before holding down the handle
  • Continue dispersing the chemical until the fire is fully extinguished

Smother the Flames

If you have shut the power off, you can use a fire blanket to smother the fire or water to put it out. Keep in mind, if you could not cut the power, do not use water or attempt to put it out due to the risk of electrical shock. Other tips include:

  • If you can’t get the fire under control, exit the building calmly and quickly, keeping close to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation.
  • Call 911, even if the fire is out to ensure smoldering objects are put out, especially if you were unable to cut the power.
  • Test your breaker panels and make sure they are labeled correctly so you can shut the power off quickly and easily if needed.

Preventing electrical fires is key. Be sure to keep flammable materials away from outlets, especially those that are currently in use. Avoid overloading power strips or connecting strips together. Surge protectors are a great tool in preventing fires and can help electronics from overheating due to a power surge.

Electrical Shock
Electrical shock can sometimes occur, especially if electrical cords or outlets are not properly maintained or if electrical appliances are placed near water. Here are a few emergency procedures to keep in mind for an electrical shock:
Don’t Touch the Person

If a person comes into contact with electricity, do not touch them directly, no matter what. If the person is still connected to electrical current when you touch them, you can also get electrocuted or shocked. It Is crucial to stay away from them and stay calm.

For high voltage electrocution, stay at least 20 feet away, and if the wire is jumping and sparking, stay as far away as possible.
Cut the Power

As soon as the electrocution occurs, get to the circuit breaker and shut off the power to that area of the home as quickly as possible.

Cut Contact Between the Person and the Source

If the breaker is too far away, you will need to cut contact between the person and the electrical source. Using an insulated object such as a wooden rod, PVC pipe, or other material will work well. Do not use a wet or damp object. Use your best judgment when determining if you should remove them from the chock or get to the breaker. Keep in mind, the longer the person is being electrocuted, the more likely it is to be fatal. Once you remove them from the shock, do not continue to move them.

Call 911

After the power is cut or the person is removed from the shock, immediately call 911. If you have any first aid or CPR training, administer it to the victim or ask the 911 operator for instructions while you wait for responders to arrive.

Tips for preventing electrical shock include:

  • To protect children, cover all outlets with protectors and educate them on electrical safety.
  • Consult or hire an electrician for any electrical repair duties where you are not sure of what to do.
  • Consider installing a safety switch in your home that will monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and shut it off immediately if an issue is detected.

Have an Electrical Emergency? Call Peters Electric

Our team of experienced residential and commercial electricians in Pittsburgh can help you with all of your electrical repair needs.

Contact us today to learn more about our electrical repair services.

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