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May is National Electrical Safety Month

Electricity is generally a safe and reliable source of power for your home. If used carelessly, however, electricity can be dangerous; even deadly. Each year, nearly 400 people are electrocuted in their homes or backyards and 450 more are killed in home fires caused by electrical problems. The Electrical Safety Foundation International has designated May as National Electrical Safety Month to raise awareness about electrical safety issues. You can do your part by familiarizing yourself with electrical hazards and taking steps to make your home safer.

Common electrical hazards

Without appropriate precautions, exposure to electricity can cause serious harm. Shocks and burns are common injuries that result from exposure to electricity and they impact the body in different ways. Electrical shock occurs through contact with an energized device that sends electric current through the body. Effects range from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity of the shock depends on the amount of current, the path of the current and the length of contact. Burns occur when electrical current flows through tissues or bone, generating heat that causes damage. If an electrical accident occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

Preventing electrical accidents

There are a variety of things you can do inside and outside your home to reduce your risk of exposure to electricity and keep your family safe, including the following:

Inside

  • Watch out for signs of electrical issues, such as flickering lights or circuit breakers that trip repeatedly. Contact a qualified electrician if you suspect a problem.
  • Have your home inspected by a qualified electrician to ensure that all electric work matches current safety provisions in the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Make sure light bulbs do not exceed the maximum wattage listed on the fixture.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas. Test them regularly and replace batteries when needed.
  • Make sure ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are installed in areas where electric equipment is likely to come into contact with water, such as the kitchen, bathrooms, basement and garage.
  • In homes with young children, install tamper resistant outlets to prevent shocks or burns.
  • Avoid overloading outlets; have additional outlets or circuits installed by a qualified electrician if needed.
  • Use extension cords only temporarily, and never cover them with rugs or blankets.
  • Keep your electrical panel free from obstructions and make sure your hands and the floor are dry before touching the panel.

Outside

  • Install protective covers on all outlets and make sure all outlets are protected by GFCIs.
  • Make sure power tools are in good condition before using them and store them indoors to protect them from weather damage.
  • When working outdoors, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use.
  • Before using a ladder or trimming a tree branch, make sure it will not come into contact with an overhead power line.
  • Power lines may be located underground. Before digging, call 811 to have utility lines marked.
  • Operate portable generators according to manufacturer's guidelines and make sure any equipment plugged into the generator does not exceed the capacity of the unit.

This list is intended for informational purposes only. Contact your local building inspector or state fire marshal for information about electrical safety standards in your area.

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This article previously appeared in the Entergy Solutions Plus newsletter, and is used with permission.
 
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