Avoiding Electrical Hazards When Re-Entering A Home Damaged By Flood Waters

Posted on: 14 September 2016

Cleanup is just the first step of what can be a grueling recovery process following a flood. Since water and electrical current don't mix, the electrical safety of a home that has been inundated by flood waters is serious business. Avoiding the danger of electrical injuries requires taking certain measures before going back inside to assess the overall damage.

Electric Meter Shut Off

Don't enter your basement or home if it's flooded until the utility company or a licensed electrician can come and shut off the power at the meter. Even if flood waters have receded and your home has lost electrical power, damaged electrical equipment and electrical parts and components that conduct electricity can still pose a serious safety threat. The only way to make sure that you can't be shocked or electrocuted is to remove the meter, which disconnects you from the electrical grid that supplies electricity to your home.

Once the main power is off and you no longer have to stand in water to get to your home's breaker box or fuse box, switch all circuit breakers in the electrical panel box to the OFF position. Move the main disconnect switch – which controls power to the electrical circuits – inside the panel box to the OFF position as well. If you have a fuse box, remove all the fuses.

Grounding System Testing

Flood waters can damage your home's electrical grounding system. Those are the wires that conduct current to the ground through grounding plates, metal rods driven into the ground, or metal pipes to prevent electrical shock and electrocution hazards.

After the water has been pumped out of your basement or home, hire a licensed electrician to assess the extent of electrical damage, particularly if any metal components of your home's electrical system were submerged in water. Metal rusts and rust and corrosion in an electrical panel box can interfere with your home's grounding system.

Electrical Equipment Inspections

You may need to replace electrical equipment in your home that has been submerged under water. Have a qualified electrician carefully inspect the sub-panels and circuit panel and circuit breakers or fuse box and fuses in your home for damage. Switches, outlet receptacles, wall and ceiling lights, and ceiling fans that came into contact with flood waters may be damaged and need to be replaced as well.

Appliances, such as your refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, and clothes dryer which have electric motors, can be damaged when they come in contact with flood waters. An electrician or appliance technician can check the motors, electrical connections, safety controls, and other electrical components and advise you whether an appliance can be repaired or should be replaced. The possibility of repair depends on the age of the appliance and how long it was under water.

Have a licensed heating and cooling contractor inspect your furnace or boiler, air conditioning system, and water heater to determine whether they can be repaired. Professionals like Skyline Electric, Inc. often recommend replacing flood-damaged heating systems, as even after being cleaned and repaired, parts can corrode later on and cause problems.

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