Storm Safety

SWPPD does everything it can to avoid interruptions in your electrical service, but sometimes Mother Nature will make power outages unavoidable. To minimize inconvenience, discomfort and danger, you should consider preparing now for the possibility of severe weather ahead. If your power does go out, check your fuses and circuit breakers first.  Call your neighbors to see if they have also lost power.  Then contact SWPPD to report the outage.

Before a storm:

  • Assemble an emergency kit with flashlights (extra batteries), battery-powered communication devices, candles, matches, and the food, water, and medical needs of your family to survive prolonged power outages.
  • Stay tuned to severe storm information from the National Weather Service, and be aware that lightning presents a danger 10 miles ahead of a storm front.
  • Don’t toss out old, worn blankets or quilts. Keep the stored for emergencies. They not only help you stay warm, but also can be used to cover doors, windows and other sources of cold air leaks during an outage.
  • Remember that in an outage a cordless phone won’t work.  Make sure you have at least one regular telephone with a cord to use if the power goes out.
  • Unplug appliances with sophisticated electronics, such as videocassette recorders, televisions, computers and microwave ovens, so they aren’t damaged by a surge when the power comes back on.  Leave one light on so you’ll know when power is restored, and then gradually reconnect your remaining appliances to avoid overloading the circuits.

After a storm:

  • Storm debris can hide dangers, such as downed or sagging power lines. Use caution in any cleanup effort. Any downed wires should be considered energized and potentially dangerous. Stay away, warn others to stay away, and call the utility. 
  • If power lines come down on or around your vehicle, call for help and remain in the vehicle. Do not attempt to get out until a utility lineman can assure you the power has been turned off.
  • Do not use electric yard tools to clean up after a storm if it is raining or the ground is wet. 
  • Never step into a flooded basement if water could be covering electrical outlets or appliances that are plugged in. 
  • Do not attempt to shut power off at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. Stay out of flooded rooms and basements until you are assured the power has been cut off.
  • Electric motors can be damaged when wet and should not be used after a storm until checked by a professional. Have damaged appliances repaired or replaced.
  • After the storm, replace used batteries in your emergency kit and restock food and water to be prepared for the next storm.

Only use generators outdoors. Connect lights and appliances to the generator using extension cords. Do not connect directly to the home circuitry unless there is a transfer safety switch to isolate the power. Without that safety feature, electricity could “back feed” into the utility system, creating danger for anyone near lines, particularly utility crews working to restore power.

For more information and videos on electrical safety, visit Safe Electricity is a program of the Energy Education Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency, and supported by a coalition of hundreds of organizations, including electric utilities, educators and other entities committed to promoting safe

Quick as Lightning, You Could Lose Your Life

Lightning strikes the United States millions of times each year, and every strike is a potential killer. To keep your family safe, it is important to know what actions to take during a thunderstorm. There are many myths and old wives tales about lightning, find out some of them from the National Weather Service. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. It is a good idea to heed the advice of the National Weather Service, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”   

There is no safe place from lightning when you are outside. To be as safe as possible you must seek shelter indoors or in an enclosed metal topped vehicle when there is a thunderstorm in the area. A safe indoor shelter is defined as a substantial building with a full roof, walls, and a floor. Unsafe structures include covered patios, open garages, picnic shelters, and tents. A safe vehicle is one that is fully enclosed like a hard-topped car, minivan, truck, etc. Unsafe vehicles include convertibles, motorcycles, golf carts, and any open cab vehicle.   

One good way to stay safe from the threat of lighting is to plan ahead. Listen to the forecast to know if there is a danger of severe weather, and make sure you can get to a safe location if a thunderstorm develops.

What to Do in Vehicle Accidents That Involve Power Lines

Instincts can help us to avoid danger but in some situations, our natural inclinations can lead to tragic results. If your car hits a utility pole or otherwise brings a power line down, getting out of a vehicle, with few exceptions, is the wrong thing to do until the line has been de-energized. Know the right steps to take to save your life:

  • Stay in the car, especially if the line is in contact with the vehicle.
  • Call or signal for help. It is safe to use a cell phone.
  • Warn others who may be nearby to stay away, and wait until the electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off.
  • If the power line is still energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path to ground for that electricity, and electrocution is the tragic result. Wait until the electric utility arrives and shuts off the power.
  • The only exception would be if fire or other danger, like the smell of gasoline, is present. In that case, the proper action is to jump—not step—with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area. Like ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source. Stepping from one voltage level to another allows the body to become a path for that electricity.
  • Even if a power line has landed on the ground, there is still the potential for the area near your car to be energized. Stay inside the vehicle unless there is fire or imminent risk of fire.
  • The same rules apply with situations involving farm equipment and construction equipment that comes in contact with overhead lines. Those working with large equipment should stay inside the vehicle if equipment extensions come in contact with power lines.

This is a great video that shows what to do when a powerline is down.

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