Life-Threatening Electrical Hazards Following a Flood

Before a storm floods your area, evacuation may be recommended or required. After the bad weather passes, you could be left wondering about the condition of your belongings and causing you to be eager to return. It is important not to go back to your home too soon because flood waters can create one or more electrical hazards:

  • Water, often full of harmful substances, coming in contact with energized surfaces.
  • Energized water, often occurring from submerged or damaged electrical equipment or appliances.
  • After cleanup damaged appliances, electrical power tools and lighting that are no longer safe to use.

In these instances, electrocution is almost inevitable when you try walking into a flooded basement, especially if it contains your home’s electrical panel. For your safety, avoid turning off a breaker while standing in water or handling electrical equipment with a submerged or damaged outlet.
Knowing these very serious, life-threatening risks, what should you do once the storm has passed?
Upon Your Return
As a basic rule, never go into a flooded or flood-damaged basement, unless the utility company or a licensed electrician has removed the electrical meter from its socket. Doing so fully disconnects your home from the electricity grid.
Even if your home seems to be out of power, a current is still flowing. In fact, if one of your neighbors decided to turn on a generator, all that power gets back-fed into your home, creating another electrocution hazard. Additionally, removing or disconnecting a circuit breaker still exposes you to this risk.
To protect yourself, put on chest waders and a headlamp to carefully explore your property. It’s easy to get lost in the dark, slip or fall while walking through your flood-damaged home. For these potential emergencies, always have someone nearby for help.
The Cleanup
Electrocution remains a risk even when the water level has gone down, so be sure you:

  • Get rid of all water from your home before removing or repairing any electrical systems.
  • Never touch or attempt to use an appliance, wires, switches or fuses when you’re damp.
  • If you’re using electric tools after your home has been cleaned out, keep them at least 10 feet from a wet surface and never turn them on when the ground is wet or it’s raining.
  • Have a professional check your appliances for any repairs before you use them. The flood likely placed most of your appliances in contact with water and damaged them beyond repair.
  • Water likely ruined everything in your home with electrical components, including your lights, the electrical box and air conditioning. Particularly, the water may have caused metal components to rust or corrode and this prevents an adequate connection from forming. You may need to have these removed and replaced.
  • Pay attention to your home’s grounding and bonding, which should be thoroughly assessed by an electrician. If this isn’t addressed, the portion grounding your home’s electrical current could be damaged.

To prepare for these instances, always make sure you have adequate flood and homeowner’s insurance coverage. To review your policy with one of our insurance professionals, give us a call at 203.439.2815.