• James Shabatowski

Flooding and Your Electrical

In reaction to the flooding in Ottawa efforts have been made round-the-clock by local volunteers, first responders, military, the City of Ottawa, local professionals and companies, and the active fighting efforts of those directly affected. Many trades have been asked to respond with their skills, resources, and knowledge. I encourage anyone in a construction trade, home inspection, or regulatory/safety institution to share your knowledge to help empower the people facing this catastrophe, but more importantly, promote a safe mind-set in dealing with today’s hardships and the rebuilding to come. As an electrical contractor, I would like to share the many tips and considerations that should be kept in mind when being faced with flooding and the follow-up when this nightmare is over. Let me open with two key points that apply to everything that follows:

1. If your basement is flooded, DO NOT ENTER THE WATER. PERIOD. Water is an excellent conductor, but not always good enough to cause your breakers to trip as your devices are submerged. What you are wading into may very well be live water. We will leave the outcome as severe injury or death. 2. If you are ever unsure on what to do, or how to do something, ASK. Many contractors are happily offering safety advice, and it is free. If you can not find an electrical contractor there is always ESA, the Electrical Safety Authority, who can either answer your questions or direct you to their online resource to find a licensed electrical contractor. Electrical resources will also be at the bottom of this article.

To those people who have not yet been flooded but are at risk. If your basement is dry, you can start taking preventative measures to reduce the chances of fire or shock:

- Remove all cords and appliances from the basement floor. - Shut off the breakers to any basement heaters including floor heat. - Appliances that are too large to move should simply be unplugged. If these larger appliances are fridges or freezers, start planning on relocating their contents. - If you can, shut off all redundant circuits in your basement. Leave critical circuits live such as your furnace or sump pit only if necessary. - If you feel that flooding is soon and inevitable, shut off the main switch to your home.

If flooding has already occurred: - STAY OUT OF ALL FLOODED AREAS. - Contact a licensed electrical contractor or Hydro to establish disconnection of electrical service. - Make preparations to evacuate if not already notified to do so.

The main reasons to disconnect power are not only to reduce shock hazards to you, but also: - Reduce shock hazards to responders. - Prevent the potential for fire. The question has arisen many times, “If it’s a flood, how did the house catch fire!?”. From an electrical standpoint, any submerged equipment that does not trip a breaker or GFCI will continuously draw power until it over heats and potentially ignites. Additionally, in the case of your main breaker or main switch, the lines coming in from outside will still be energized if not disconnected by Hydro. As flood waters come in contact with these live components, the arcing will lead to over heating, increasing the risk of a house fire. - Provide the opportunity to verify potentially damaged circuits and appliances when returning after the flood. Flood damaged circuits will be exceptionally prone to overheating and may still pose a great shock risk if not completely dry.

- Upon returning, have a licensed electrical contractor verify your electrical systems before restoring power. This will be inevitable if Hydro has pulled your meter, but in the case that they have not or you have a generator, GET IT VERIFIED FIRST.

The use of generators in times like these is inevitable. Quite often caution is thrown to the wind as desperate times demand quick action. But some basic safety tips can keep a devastating situation from becoming fatal: - Never use generators in enclosed areas or near windows or doors. - If your generator’s receptacles are not GFCI protected, find an in-line GFCI protective device or avoid using the generator - Ensure extension cords are in good working order, connections are not exposed to wet conditions, sized for their load, and have a ground pin present. - Ensure the cords on your equipment are in good working condition

ESA - Flooding Safety Article ESA - Generator Safety Article ESA - Find a Licensed Electrical Contractor

If you do not have an electrical contractor, I will be happy to offer my services as well. - Free advice and estimates - Questions VIA text, Facebook, website, or commented to this article to share with others that may have a similar question James Shabatowski 613-286-8701



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