Electric Safety After a Flood

Flooding forces homeowners to ask many difficult questions about water-damaged electrical equipment in their houses:

  • Can I use appliances after they dry out?
  • Are circuit breakers and fuses safe to use?
  • Will I need to replace my electrical wiring?

Floodwater contaminants can create serious fire hazards if electrical wiring and equipment have been submerged in water.  Even with professional cleaning and drying, sediments and toxins are difficult to remove.

As families begin to clean up after a flood, there may be hidden electrical hazards.  This is not a do-it-yourself project!  Before beginning, have a qualified electrician check the house wiring, assess other damages and proceed with repair work.  Then, follow these important safety tips:

  • If you smell natural gas or hear a blowing or hissing sound, quickly leave the home and call your natural gas provider.  Be aware that propane tanks also pose a risk if they are punctured or damaged.
  • Do not flip a switch or plug in an appliance until an electrician tells you it is safe.
  • Do not touch a circuit breaker or replace a fuse with wet hands or while standing on a wet surface. Use a dry plastic- or rubber-insulated tool to reset breakers and use only one hand.
  • Do not allow power cord connections to become wet.
  • Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on a three-prong plug.
  • Use portable ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protective devices on equipment and extension cords to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
  • Discard electrical devices that have been submerged (i.e., circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs and switches).
  • When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.
  • Portable generators emit carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous gas that is colorless and odorless.  For this reason, portable generators should never be used indoors or outdoors near open doors, windows or vents.
  • Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances.  Electrical parts can pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.

Replace or recondition?

Some items may be reconditioned, while others will need to be completely replaced to protect you and your family.  It is recommended that you allow an electrician or electrical inspector to guide the restoration or replacement of any electrical wiring or equipment.

Corrosion and insulation damage can occur when water and silt get inside electrical devices and products. Water can also damage the motors in electrical appliances.  Therefore, you may need to replace:

  • Circuit breakers and fuses
  • All electrical wiring systems
  • Light switches, thermostats, outlets, light fixtures, electric heaters and ceiling fans
  • Washing machines, dryers, furnaces, heat pumps, freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, vacuums, power tools, exercise equipment and similar appliances.  Internal electrical components of this equipment could also be damaged.
  • Electronic equipment, including computers and home entertainment systems

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