Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives

ELECTRICAL SAFETY

For Iowa's locally owned and governed electric cooperatives, the safety of co-op members and employees is always our top priority. At IAEC, our Safety & Loss Control department works diligently to develop a proactive safety culture at your local co-op but it's also important for you to be proactive at home. Talk to your family about the dangers of electricity, especially around water. Remind them that you can't see, hear or smell electricity so they should always assume that a wire or power line is energized and dangerous. Here are some additional safety tips:
 

Downed power lines

Storms or accidents can sometimes cause power lines to fall to the ground. Assume any wire lying on the ground is carrying electricity and stay away from it. If you spot a downed wire, immediately call your local police and your electric co-op. Keep others from getting near the downed wire until help arrives. Never attempt to drive over a downed power line.

Never touch a person or object that is in contact with a power line or you may also be electrocuted; go get help immediately.
 

Storm safety

If you hear thunder, run for cover! There is no safe place from lightning when you’re outside. It’s important to be aware of weather forecasts and watch for developing thunderstorms as lightning can strike many miles ahead of a storm front. If you hear thunder, seek shelter immediately because it indicates lightning is within 10 miles of you. Safe shelters include inside a building or in an enclosed metal-topped vehicle. Authorities warn against outdoor activity until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard.
 

Avoid power lines

Overhead wires enter houses and buildings at places called service drops. Service drops are not insulated, but covered with a weatherproofing material which may become brittle and fall off. Never touch wires at service drops or any outside power line.

Consider any electrical line dangerous and energized and keep all objects such as kites, ladders and antennas away from power lines.

Do not attempt to raise or move electric lines; they are not insulated! Call your co-op for assistance.

If your vehicle hits a utility pole, stay in your vehicle until help arrives. Assume that power lines are still energized and dangerous. Call the local police so they can assure that electricity has been turned off.
 

Call Before You Dig

Before digging to ANY depth on your property, call 811 or go online to contact Iowa ONE CALL at least two business days beforehand so local utilities can mark underground lines that may be near the area where you plan to dig. It's the law and it could just save your life! 
 

Kites and balloons

Since overhead power lines are not insulated, a kite or balloon string can conduct electricity to the ground. If a kite gets stuck in a tree that is near power lines, do not climb up to get it; notify your co-op. Fly kites and model airplanes in large open areas like a park or a field.
 

Trees near power lines

Tree limbs that grow up near power lines can be unsafe. If you climb such a tree, you could get hurt from electrical shock. Never trim trees near power lines; if you see a tree growing too close to power lines, contact your electric co-op to report it so our trained staff can prune for you.
 

In your home

Pull the entrance switch or fuse before working on wiring or any equipment connected to the wiring. If in doubt, call a competent electrician.

If a fuse blows or a breaker trips, find out the cause before restoring current to that circuit. Look for damaged wires, bare wires, defective outlets and defective appliances.

Install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where appliances may accidentally come into contact with water, such as in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages and outside.

If you have small children at home, cover outlets with plastic outlet caps or use new childproof outlets.
 

Hot tubs and pools

Water and electricity never mix! Keep electronics like radios away from pools and hot tubs, and watch for overhead power lines when cleaning pools. Never install pools underneath or near power lines. Never touch an electrical appliance if you are wet; always dry off completely. Talk to your children about the dangers of mixing electricity with water.
 

Electric shock drowning

If you're spending time near marinas and docks, be aware of the dangers and warning signs of electric shock drowning, which is a result of electric current leaking into bodies of water, usually in marinas and boat docks. Click to learn more.
 

Outdoor electronics

Be careful when using electrical appliances outdoors. Whether it's a bug zapper, an electric charcoal lighter, or a radio or CD player, use outlets that have weatherproof covers and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to prevent serious shock injuries. Use portable GFCIs for outdoor outlets that don’t have them.

Don't use extension cords that are damaged or frayed.

Always unplug decorative holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
 

Portable generator safety

Read and follow all manufacturer operating instructions to properly ground the generator. Be sure you understand them before hooking up the generator.

Maintain adequate ventilation because generators emit carbon monoxide. It's against fire code to operate a generator in your home, garage or other enclosed building. Place it in a dry location outdoors.

Never plug a portable electric generator into a wall outlet or connect directly to a home’s wiring. This can energize utility power lines and injure you or others working nearby. Electrical back feed can also damage the generator and home electrical equipment.

Turn off the generator and allow cooling before refueling. Gasoline and its vapors may ignite if they come in contact with hot components or an electrical spark. Store fuel in a properly designed container in a secure location away from the generator or other fuel burning appliances, such as water heaters. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located nearby.

Protect your appliances. Turn off or disconnect all appliances and lights before you begin operating the portable generator. Once the generator is running, turn your appliances and lights on one at a time to avoid overloading the unit. Remember, generators are for temporary usage, prioritize your needs.

Generators pose electrical risks especially when operated in wet conditions. Use a generator only when necessary when the weather creates wet or moist conditions. Protect the generator by operating it under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under it. Make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator.

Keep children and pets away from portable generators at all times. Many generator components are hot enough to burn you during operation.

Use proper extension cords. Use only safety-tested, shop-type electrical cords designed and rated for heavier, outdoor use to connect appliances. Many generators are equipped with twist-lock connects to reduce the chance of accidental disconnections due to vibrations.

Shut down the generator properly. Before shutting down a generator, turn off and unplug all appliances and equipment being powered by the generator.

Remember maintenance between uses. Drain the gasoline from the generator while it is being stored. It’s also a good idea to inspect the fuel and oil filters, spark plug, oil level and fuel quality and start the generator on a regular basis before an emergency situation happens.
 

Farm safety tips

Always lower portable augers or elevators to their lowest possible level - under 14 feet - before moving or transporting; use care when raising them.

Keep all objects at least 10 feet away from overhead lines. Know where all overhead power lines are located on your property and inform your farm workers and family about them. 

Be aware of increased height when loading and transporting larger modern tractors with higher antennas. 

Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path.

Plan your route between fields, to bins and elevators, and on public roads so that you avoid low-hanging power lines. 

When moving large equipment or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter to help make certain that contact is not made with a line. 

Don’t use metal poles when breaking up bridged grain inside and around bins.

As in any outdoor work, be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods into power lines. Remember, non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, tires, ropes, and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness and dust and dirt contamination. 

If equipment gets hung up on a power line, the operator should NOT get off the machinery unless in immediate danger. If the operator touches the ground and the equipment at the same time, he or she will become a channel for electricity. If the operator is in immediate danger and must leave the equipment, jump as far away from the machinery as possible and bunny hop (both feet landing together) from the accident. Never get back on machinery that touches a power line until the utility company disconnects the line.

Use qualified electricians for work on drying equipment and other farm electrical systems.
 

Move over and slow down!

Iowa motorists are now required by law to move over or slow down when approaching ANY vehicle on the side of the road with flashing lights activated. Help keep our co-op employees safe while they're working to keep your lights on; their jobs are dangerous enough already!

 

>> For more safety tips and additional information, visit Safe Electricity

 

We are committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable & environmentally responsible power to 650,000 Iowans.

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