Electricity is the most widely used energy source in the world and, unfortunately, is often taken for granted. Electricity is used everyday for a variety of tasks. No wonder it is such an inconvenience when the power goes out! Electricity is so common that we often forget the importance of proper usage and safety practices. We should constantly remind ourselves and our children of the power of electricity. Following are some interesting facts and good advice:
Most accidents involving electricity can be traced to three causes:
- Lack of knowledge about using electrical equipment
- Careless use of equipment
- Faulty electrical equipment or cords
The electricity needed to light a 7.5 watt Christmas tree bulb is enough to seriously or fatally injure an adult. Don’t be fooled by low voltage electricity. A person may survive a high-voltage shock yet be killed by a low-voltage shock
- Never touch or try to move a downed power line or other damaged electrical equipment. Call Huntsville Utilities immediately at 256-535-1200, then make sure no one else goes near the power line or damaged facilities.
- Keep ladders, kites and other tall equipment out of power lines and out of trees that are near power lines. Do not try to trim a tree that is in a power line. Call Huntsville Utilities to request tree trimming.
- Make sure all electrical cords are in good shape. If they are frayed or damaged in any way, do not use them. Also, take care of electrical cords so they do not become damaged. Place them where they will not be stepped on or subject to heat or water. Do not pull on cords to disconnect them (pull from the plug) and do not twist or kink cords.
- Turn off lights when changing a bulb and unplug appliances to clean or service them.
- Turn appliances off or unplug them when not in use.
- Never use an electric appliance while wet, standing in water or in the rain.
- Never use an electric appliance that may be damaged or has a damaged electric cord.
- Teach children to stay away from electrical outlets and not to play with electric appliances. If an appliance has a third prong (grounding prong) on the cord, make sure it is plugged into an outlet or extension cord that will accept the third prong. Never remove the third prong so that the appliance can be plugged into a two prong receptacle.
- In case of an electrical fire, call the fire department, disconnect the breaker that provides electrical service to the appliance on fire, or disconnect the main breaker. If you can safely unplug an appliance that is on fire then do so. Never try to extinguish an electrical fire with water. Use baking soda or an extinguisher rated for electrical fires. It is a good idea to make sure all adults and older children in the home know where the breaker panel for the home is and how to disconnect the main breaker. Breaker panels should be labeled as detailed as possible.
- In the event of an electrocution, disconnect the power if the source is known and accessible. In the event a person is touching a downed power line or other damaged facilities belonging to Huntsville Utilities, call Huntsville Utilities immediately at 256-535-1200 and be prepared to give the location (address). Never touch a person that is being electrocuted or in contact with electric power lines until power has been disconnected. To assist before power has been disconnected, could cause the person assisting to be seriously or fatally injured. Call for medical help (local hospital or 911), and if knowledgeable in first aid, administer.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
To help reduce the likelihood of injury due to electrocutions inside and around the home, the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) has been developed. It is designed to disconnect power much faster than a typical household circuit breaker or fuse. Most new homes are equipped with at least one ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The most common GFCI is a special type of receptacle (outlet), usually located in the garage, kitchen or bathroom where water is most likely to be present or where ground faults are most likely to occurr. However, GFCI’s may also be part of a special circuit breaker or a portable device that can be installed on most standard outlets. Sometimes more than one outlet may be connected to the same GFCI. For example, your home may have a GFCI outlet located in the garage, but the outlets for the bathrooms, kitchen and outside may all be tied to that GFCI. If there is a problem at any of these outlets, the GFCI will disconnect power to all of them.
GFCIs have a TEST and RESET button which should be used to test the GFCI each month. To test the GFCI, press the TEST button. Power should be disconnected at that location. Press the RESET button to restore power. If the TEST button does not cause the power to disconnect, call an electrician to check it out.
If your home does not have a GFCI, you may want to consider having one installed. A GFCI is not a substitute for good safety practices!