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Illinois Country Living

Molly Hall,
Safe Electricity

Safety & Health:

Severe storm season is here
How to prepare for the worst-case scenario

The months of April through July represent the most active months for severe storms, lightning strikes and tornadoes. Storms can kill and so can conditions after the storm.

The employees working for your electric co-op work very hard to repair the downed power lines quickly after a storm. They understand the dangers of lightning and how dangerous high voltage lines can be after a storm. They know that you can’t tell if the lines are hot or not just because they’ve been blown to the ground. They also want you to be prepared for outages that could last for a while.

Take just a minute to review these tips and share them with your family and friends.

Before the storm:

• Assemble a kit of essentials, like battery-operated flashlights and radios, as well as matches and candles. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers that includes the electric utility. Be prepared for the possibility of a prolonged outage due to power line and electric equipment damage.

• Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand. Maintain a supply of non-perishable food items, along with a hand opener for canned food.

• During an outage, switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns.

• Lightning can travel up to 10 miles away from a storm, so seek shelter as soon as you hear thunder.

• Be sure to tune into your local weather station if you suspect severe weather is brewing. Understand the National Weather Service warning classification system. A tornado or severe storm watch means that conditions are favorable for those weather conditions forming. A warning means that dangerous weather conditions are developing and imminent.

• Consider having Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) professionally installed or purchasing a portable GFCI. GFCIs can cut off power if there is a problem and are recommended for outdoor outlets and areas of the home that are prone to water exposure such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, etc.

After the storm:

• When venturing outside after a severe storm, stay away from downed power lines and be alert to the possibility that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. Assume that any dangling wires you encounter are electrical, and treat all downed or hanging power lines as if they are energized. Warn others to stay away and contact the electric utility.

• If you are driving and come upon a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, warn others to stay away and contact emergency personnel or electric utility. Also when driving, be careful at intersections where traffic lights may be out. Stop at all railroad crossings, and treat road intersections with traffic signals as a four-way stop before proceeding with caution.

• Before re-entering storm-damaged buildings or rooms, be sure all electric and gas services are turned off. Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. If you can’t reach your breaker box safely, call your electric utility to shut off power at the meter.

• Never step into a flooded basement or other area if water is covering electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Be alert to any electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water. Never touch electrical appliances, cords or wires while you are wet or standing in water.

• Cleaning up and using water-damaged appliances also carry safety risks. Electric motors in appliances that have been drenched or submerged should be thoroughly cleaned and reconditioned before they are put back into service. It may be necessary to repair or replace electrical appliances or tools that have been in contact with water. Do not use any water-damaged appliance until a professional has checked it out.

For more information about electrical safety, please visit or for more information on electrical safety and severe weather preparedness.

For More Information:

Molly Hall is the Director of Safe Electricity. E-mail: and for more information visit Safe Electricity is a program of the Energy Education Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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