There are a variety of electrical hazards you or your family may face outside your home. Be sure your family is educated about what to do when they come in contact with a situation involving electricity.
Quick Tips for Electrical Safety:
- Always look up before raising ladders or other long or tall objects.
- Keep ladders and scaffolds as far away as possible from power lines.
- Use wood or fiberglass ladders if you must work near electric wires. Never use aluminum or metal ladders near electric lines.
- Stay clear of overhead power lines when moving irrigation pipes, augers, grain elevators, tall machinery, etc.
- Remember to look up before planting new trees or trimming existing ones.
- Pay attention to the signs on substation fencing; they mark danger zones for you.
- Make sure your antenna has lightning protection.
- Have electrical circuits, wiring and equipment inspected by a licensed electrician.
- Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) when working outdoors.
- Ensure that sprinklers don’t spray water near overhead lines.
- Check your outdoor receptacles to make sure outlets have their own waterproof covers.
- If your pet gets stranded on a utility pole, never climb up to rescue it. Call the co-op and they will send someone to rescue your pet.
- Remember that power runs underground as well as overhead. Call before you dig when landscaping your front or back yard.
- Always wear shoes when using a lawn mower and outdoor power tools. Be sure to work on dry grass only, and never use electric tools in the rain or on wet surfaces.
- Check for frayed or damaged cords on power tools. Discard or replace any with damaged cords or cracked housing.
It’s always a good idea to check the capacity of the circuits at your service panel. Fuses and breakers are marked with their capacity. Household circuits are typically rated at 15, 20, 30 and 50 amperes. Never replace these devices with ones of higher capacity without having a qualified electrician inspect the work.
Wiring should provide plenty of grounded outlets (protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) on circuits of the right size for the tools or appliances you use.
A sure-fire way to overload a circuit is to use several tools or appliances at the same time whose combined wattage totals more than the circuit capacity. If the circuit isn’t interrupted by a fuse or circuit breaker, the wires might eventually overheat and cause a fire.
Planting and Trimming Trees
First and foremost, don’t plant trees, shrubs or bushes under or near electric lines.
Tiny trees turn into big trees whose branches can touch electric lines. Trees easily conduct electricity, putting tree-climbing, kite-flying children at risk of injury.
You can prevent your newly planted trees from growing into the power lines by simply looking up. The key is to plant small, medium, or large trees the appropriate distance from the power lines so they are less likely to grow into the lines. Small variety trees need to be planted at least 20 feet away from power lines, medium variety trees at least 35 feet away from power lines, and large variety trees at least 45 feet away from power lines.
Here is a list of some of the trees native to Northeast Texas categorized by height classification:
- SMALL: Dogwood, Redbud, Yaupon, Crepe Myrtle, and various fruit and ornamental trees.
- MEDIUM: Eastern Red Cedar, American Holly, Sassafras, Arizona Ash, White Ash, Catalpa, Common Persimmon, Boxelder, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Silver Poplar and Mimosa.
- LARGE: Pecan, Hackberry, Green Ash, Black Walnut, Sweetgum, Tulip Poplar, Southern Magnolia, Slash Pine, Loblolly Pine, Longleaf Pine, Shortleaf Pine, Sycamore, Water Oak, Pin Oak, Red Oak, Live Oak, Weeping Willow and American Elm.
It’s also important to call the co-op before you attempt to cut or trim trees near power lines. Trying to trim a tree that touches a power line is risky. Removing a tree whose branches are mingled with a line makes it possible for the line to topple down as well.
And last but not least, call us before you dig a hole to plant a tree or shrub. Contact the co-op to be sure you’re not risking contact with underground power lines.
The signs on the substation fence, “Danger – Keep Out” or “Warning – High Voltage”, mean what they say. They may not sound very friendly, but these signs carry an important safety message: that fence is there for your protection.
An electrical substation changes the extremely high voltage carried by the long-distance transmission lines into the lower distribution voltage that serves your home and business. To do this, the substation must have a direct feed from the transmission line into the substation structure. The equipment within the substation is always under high-voltage electrical load.
Substation technicians, line technicians and maintenance crews are trained to work in high-voltage situations and to recognize and avoid potential hazards that exist in the substation. You can avoid these hazards by paying attention to the signs on the substation fencing. They mark the danger zone for you.
Tools and Appliances
Electric tools and appliances can be a hazard if used improperly. When considering the purchase of a tool or appliance, take a moment to consider where and under what conditions it will be used.
Always keep these tips in mind while using tools and appliances:
- The amperage rating of a tool or appliance is the amount of current it draws. A tool with a higher amperage rating may not be the most efficient or best choice, since there’s no guarantee that a motor will efficiently convert that current into real, work-producing power.
- Don’t use any electric tool or appliance in the rain, on wet surfaces, or while standing in water. Never place an electrical appliance where it could fall into water. Keep radios and other devices well away from tubs, sinks and swimming pools. Make sure your hands are dry when you use any electric tool or appliance. If you have to touch an appliance that’s standing in water, disconnect the power at the service panel first.
- Be sure tools and appliances are plugged in to outlets equipped with ground fault circuit interruptions (GFCIs).
- If an appliance gives off sparks, immediately unplug the device without touching its body. If sparks come from the cord, plug or wall outlet, shut off the power at the service panel.
- Plug in portable appliances only when you intend to use them. Disconnect them and store them away when not in use.
- Use appliances that have a seal of approval from a major testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Make sure there’s proper ventilation around TVs and VCRs. Restricted airflow can cause them to overheat.
- Make sure all electric tools have 3-pronged plugs, or are double insulated. Never use a tool with a three-prong grounding plug with an extension cord that only accommodates two prongs, or use a three-prong adapter plug with a two-prong outlet.
- Never use indoor appliances outside.
- Make sure tools are properly maintained. Repair or replace worn or defective equipment immediately. Always unplug the tool or appliance you’re using before making any adjustments or repairs.
- Never use flammable liquids (gasoline, solvents, etc.) around electric tools.
- Dress appropriately when using electric tools and equipment. Be sure to never wear clothing or jewelry that could become tangled.
Underground Power Lines
If you’re planning any projects that require digging, such as installing fence posts or planting trees, stop and think twice about what may be hidden underground. Underground electric lines may serve you. Since these lines are out of sight, it’s easy to forget they’re there, perhaps just below the spot where you’re getting ready to dig.
Although underground electric lines are insulated, you can still be injured if you cut through the insulation while standing on the ground. Even when the insulation is only nicked, you may find your home without power weeks later after moisture seeps into the line. If you have underground electric service, call the co-op before you do any digging in your yard. They will be happy to send someone out to mark the location of the lines for you.
If you make the mistake of digging into an underground electric line, DO NOT COVER IT, AND BACK UP! Leave it exposed and call your electric company right away. It is far easier and less expensive to repair it at this time than to search for and correct the problem later.
Utility poles safely support the electric power conductors (wires) that provide vital electric service to our members. They are the backbone of our distribution system.
Please do not place yard sale signs, posters, advertisements, or any other such items on utility poles. They are a safety hazard for our line workers. Line workers who have to navigate around these attachments while climbing utility poles could fall and get hurt. Not only are the signs themselves hazardous, but the nails or staples used to post them can damage the equipment a line worker wears to protect him from electric shock. If a line worker hits a nail or staple while climbing, his gaff could slip off the pole. Furthermore, sports equipment, private lighting or any other device for personal use should not be installed on any utility pole.
Refrain from landscaping around the bottom of poles with flower boxes, birdhouses, etc. If a line worker were to fall on these, he could be seriously injured.
Don’t use electrical equipment installed on the pole for target practice. This will do nothing but damage equipment and probably cause outages. Shooting at power lines or insulators on the poles is illegal and could cause the lines to come down.
If you come across a fallen wire, don’t touch it. Report it to Lamar Electric Cooperative or to the police or sheriff’s department.
If you’re in a car that is touching fallen lines, do not touch them or the car – you could be shocked. Stay in the car and try to drive away. If you can’t drive, wait for help to arrive – don’t get out! Warn other people to stay away. Avoid touching metal parts of the car. If you must get out, jump clear without touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time, and hop away with both feet together.
Chain-link and other metal fences may become electrified by fallen power lines. So use caution around metal fences, especially after storms.
At Lamar Electric Cooperative, we want you and your family to stay safe from electric dangers. It could be the difference between life and death.