By observing a few rules, everyone can help in maintaining a safer environment.
Power Line Safety
Accidentally contacting a power line can be dangerous and in some cases, even deadly. Your Touchstone Energy cooperative wants to help our members stay safe around power lines.
Keep a safe distance
Whether you are playing outdoors with your children or working on landscaping projects, keep a safe distance from power lines and other equipment your co-op uses to get electricity to your home.
Always remember to:
- Stay away from power lines, meters, transformers, and electrical boxes.
- Don’t climb trees near power lines.
- Never fly kits, remote control airplanes or balloons near power lines.
- If you get something stuck in a power line, call your Touchstone Energy co-op to get it.
- Keep a safe distance from overhead power lines when working with ladders or installing objects such as antennas.
- Never touch or go near a downed power line.
- Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
- Keep children and pets away.
Power Line Hazards and Cars
If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay. Warn people not to touch the car or the line. Call or ask someone to call the local cooperative and emergency services.
The only circumstance in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire. Open the door. Do not step out of the car. You may receive a shock. Instead, jump free of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company’s Service Center/Dispatch Office.
Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.
Electrical Safety and Generators
Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits
When power lines are down, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.
When using gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the “off” position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help protect utility line workers or other repair workers or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings to at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.
Effects of Backfeed
The problem of backfeed in electrical energy is a potential risk for electrical energy workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths. Following the safety guidelines below can reduce this risk.
Other Generator Hazards
Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
Space Heater Safety
Whether you use a space heater to augment your whole-house heating system or for your main source of heat, there are some safety precautions you should take. To stay warm and safe when using space heaters, Little River Electric Cooperative offers the following safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Fuel-burning space heaters produce a variety of combustion products that can be hazardous to family health. If possible, use an electric space heater, which produces no fumes and requires no liquid fuel such as gasoline or kerosene.
- Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element. This will help keep children, pets, and clothing away from the heat source.
- Look for a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been determined to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions. A good practice is to read aloud the instructions and warning labels to members of the household to be certain everyone understands how to operate the heater safely. keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Some heaters have very hot surfaces. Children should not be permitted to either adjust the controls or move the heater.
- Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture, and draperies. Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire.
- Be certain your heater is placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets.
- Use heaters on the floor. Never place on furniture, since they may fall dislodging or breaking parts in the heater, which could result in a fire or shock hazard.
- Unless certified for that purpose, do not use heaters in wet or moist places, such as bathrooms. Corrosion or other damage to parts in the heater may lead to a fire or shock hazard.
- Do not hide cords under rugs or carpets. Placing anything on top of the cord could cause the cord to overheat and cause a fire.
- Keep the heater in a safe working condition, replacing missing guards and controls at once. Never operate a defective heater. Have all necessary repairs done by a qualified repair person.
- If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy-duty cord marked with a #14 gauge or larger wire. An incorrectly-sized cord may create a fire hazard. If the heater’s plug has a grounding prong, use only a ground (three-wire) extension cord.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, hundreds of people die accidentally every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from carbon monoxide produced by idling cars.
Detecting carbon monoxide is nearly impossible because you can’t see or smell it, but at high levels, carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. If fuel-burning appliances are maintained and used properly, the amount of carbon monoxide produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.
Be safe. Follow the EPA’s advice and practice the DO’s and DON’Ts of carbon monoxide.
- Do have your fuel-burning appliances — including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves — inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected in good condition, and not blocked.
- Do choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.
- Do read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.
- Do call EPA’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) INFO Clearinghouse at 1-800-438-4318 or the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 for more information on how to reduce your risks from carbon monoxide and other combustion gases and particles.
- Don’t idle the car in a garage even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
- Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
- Don’t ever use a charcoal grill indoors — even in a fireplace.
- Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
- Don’t use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
- Don’t ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are widely available in stores, and you may want to consider buying one as a back-up — but not as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. Don’t let buying a carbon monoxide detector lull you into a false sense of security. Preventing carbon monoxide from becoming a problem in your home is better than relying on an alarm. Instead, follow the checklist of DO’s and DON’Ts.
If you shop for a carbon monoxide detector, the EPA suggests you do some research on features and don’t select solely on the basis of cost. Non-governmental organizations such as Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), the American Gas Association, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can help you
Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions for its placement, use, and maintenance.
Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time.
Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea and mild headaches, and may have long-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses, you may not consider carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause.
If you experience symptoms you think could be from carbon monoxide poisoning:
GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test soon after exposure.
Keeping a written checklist of electrical safety items is an important tool for keeping your whole family safe. A printout of this download will help you stay organized and always prepared: