It’s important to take precautions to avoid gas and electrical danger during and after a flooding event. Unfortunately, here in Texas, flooding is all too common. We’ve had years where we’ve experienced unprecedented amounts of rainfall, causing “historic” floods in cities like Houston. Here are some things you need to know when there’s a flood.
What to Do Before a Flood
There are hazards both inside and outside your home. A tropical storm comes with high winds that can cause flooding and down power lines. Familiarize yourself with the location of the outdoor power lines. Water is a conductor of electricity. If you’re touching water that’s touching electricity, you can become electricity’s path to the ground and electrocute yourself.
When flood waters rise, the potential for injury is high. Know your surroundings and spot the dangers. Water can affect appliances, electronics, switches, outlets and HVAC equipment. One of the biggest concerns during and after a flood is shock and electrocution from appliances and equipment around you.
You’ll also want to know the location of the outlets inside your home. While some floods, like a flash flood, can occur when you least expect them to, you can prepare for other types of flooding hazards. If you know that there’s a possibility of flooding, move electrical equipment like TVs, stereos and computers to an upper floor. For appliances like refrigerators, you can try to raise them off the floor with pieces of lumber.
What to Do During and After a Flood
Electrocution is a significant risk during a flood. However, there’s another hazard to know about — carbon monoxide poisoning. When the power’s out, you might hear electric power generators running. They can be a lifesaver and provide comfort during a stressful time. However, if used indoors, they can be a significant contributor to high levels of indoor carbon monoxide. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and confusion. In short, do not use an indoor generator indoors, ever, even if the doors and windows are open.
Severe flooding and storms can damage natural gas equipment too. Pay attention to your senses, in particular, your sight, sound and smell. They’ll work together to let you know what’s going on around you with any gas issues. Be sure not to touch anything electric, as you may discharge a spark doing something as simple as turning on a light. Do not attempt to disconnect any gas appliances on your own.
Electricity can move through the water, and it’s no secret that an electric shock can kill you. However, you can avert danger by avoiding hazardous flooded areas. When flooding takes over rooms, proceed with caution. If you think electrical outlets, appliances or cords have come in contact with water, don’t enter the room.
After the flood has receded, you’re going to want to make sure it’s safe to go in your house. Check to see if the water made contact with your electrical panel and outlets. If the water level was high enough, be sure not to touch anything. Call the utility company so that they can disconnect power. Severe winds can sometimes accompany a flood. So, if you have to go outside, check to see if there are downed power lines and stay away from them.
Once everything is all dried out, consider safety measures, such as having ground fault circuit interrupters installed. GFCIs can help prevent electrocution. Hire a licensed electrician to install GFCIs on outlets throughout your home, especially in areas that can accidentally come in contact with water, like bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchen areas. And if you use electric power tools in your garage, it’s a good idea have GFCIs installed in the garage too.
You might also require the assistance of a licensed electrician to evaluate the situation in your home. The electrician may suggest repairs before restoring the electricity. Replace circuit breakers if they were under water. A professional electrician can clean, dry and test panel boards and service enclosures, as well as any affected electrical devices, appliances, heating equipment and wiring. You might have to replace any damaged equipment.
If you go back home and smell gas or you think there’s a leak, open all the windows, turn off the main gas valve and leave your home. Notify your utility company, the police or fire department, and don’t return to your house until it’s safe to enter.
There’s still a risk if the power is out, too. How? Someone could be illegally backfeeding electricity with a generator to power their home.
Flooding is going to happen. And while floods can bring lots of destruction, you can avoid gas and electrical danger by being prepared and taking the necessary precautions mentioned. Read about what you can do if your power goes out. The more you know, the better you can prepare for life’s unexpected natural events.