Water and electricity do not mix. Below we'll examine what you can do to prepare, how to respond during a flood, and what to do after the water recedes.
If you know you that your home or business is susceptible to flooding, take the following steps before you evacuate:
- Plan ahead: identify your electrical main power switch, label it, and know how to shut it off safely.
- If your home is dry and you have to evacuate, turn off the electrical main power switch. Stand to the side of the breaker panel, look away from the panel and have a flashlight with you when switching. If the home is already flooded -- do not attempt to turn off the main power switch.
- Move any portable electrical items to an upper floor or another location that is not at risk of flooding.
- If you have time, have a licensed contractor remove hot water tanks, clothes dryers and ranges, and cap the gas pipe leading to the appliance shut off valve. Also, have a licensed contractor remove the electric motor and fan, burner and controls from your furnace, and shut off the gas and electrical supply.
- Remove all food from refrigerator and leave the door open if you have time before evacuating.
- Turn off and unplug all appliances.
During a Flood
If flooding occurs, leave the building immediately, as water and live electrical wires can be a lethal combination. If you have not already turned off your main power switch, do not attempt to turn it off once water has entered the building. Do not return until authorities indicate it is safe to do so. And, do not enter flooded basements or buildings that may contain energized electrical wiring or appliances, and do not touch damp walls. If you are boating in a flooded area, avoid power lines, as the water level may cause the boat to be too close to the wires for safety. Do not travel by boat at night.
After the Flood Recedes
Use extreme caution when returning to your home after a flood, as electrical hazards could exist long after the water dissipates. Even if water is not visible in a building, the interior structure may be soaked and still present an electrical hazard. If your electrical main switch was not turned off prior to evacuation, do not enter the building until a qualified electrician has determined it is safe to do so. Do not enter flooded basements or buildings that may contain energized electrical wiring or electrical appliances. Stay clear of anything that could conduct an electric current such as metal pipes, metal ladders, and even damp wood. When an electrical appliance or installation has been in water, it cannot be turned on again without risk of shock or fire.
- The main electrical panel must be cleaned, dried and tested by a qualified electrician to ensure system integrity.
- Electrical circuit breakers that have been submerged must be replaced by a qualified electrician. Destroy old breakers to prevent them from being used again.
- Do not use any appliance, heating, pressure, or sewage system until electrical components have been thoroughly cleaned, dried and inspected by a qualified electrician.
- Before turning on power, have a qualified electrician inspect all wiring. Even if your building is not flooded, the interior structure may be soaked and still be a conductor of electricity.
- If you plan to use a generator for backup power, make sure it and all connected equipment is in a dry and well ventilated location.