Electrical Safety Tips
Electricity is important because it powers everything from simple household appliances to state-of-the-art, life-saving devices. At BTU, safety is a top priority, and we work to create a safe environment for our employees and the public. The key to safety is to use electricity wisely. Be aware of your surroundings and take the proper precautions anytime you plan to work with or around electric power. Whether at work or at play, we encourage you and your family to stay safe at all times.
Check out the information below to learn about ways you and your family can stay safe around electricity and other general safety tips:
Safety at Home
Outlets and Plugs
- Check for outlets that have loose fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire.
- NEVER remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three prong plug fit into a two conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock.
- NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOES NOT FIT! Plugs should fit securely into outlets.
- Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.
- Replace any missing or broken wall plates.
- Make sure there are safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children.
- Make sure cords are in good condition; not frayed or cracked. NEVER patch a cord with tape.
- Cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard, or to another object.
- Do not place cords in high traffic areas or under carpets, rugs or beneath furniture.
- Check to see that cords are not overloaded.
- Only use extension cords on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring.
- Use a long cord instead of several short cords plugged together.
- Store extension cords in a cool, dry place and do not coil them up tightly.
- Check the wattage of all bulbs in light fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture.
- Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you do not know the wattage, check with the manufacturer.
- Ensure that bulbs are screwed in securely; loose bulbs may overheat.
Circuit Breakers / Fuses
- Circuit breakers and fuses should have the correct size current rating for the circuit. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the size to be used. Always replace a fuse with the same size fuse.
It is smart and safe to install a smoke detector on every floor of the house, especially near bedrooms. But it is not enough to install it and forget about it. The following provides information on how to keep your smoke detectors in good working order:
- Once per month: Test each smoke detector in your home. If you have electric smoke detectors, make sure they have battery backups incase of a power outage and keep the batteries fresh.
- Twice per year: Get the family together for a fire drill. Do it on the same day each year, like someone’s birthday or anniversary, or on the first days of spring and fall.
- Keep smoke detectors clean: Use your vacuum cleaner’s attachment hose to vacuum cobwebs and dust. A dusty detector is less sensitive to smoke.
- Once per year: Replace the batteries in every smoke detector. Also, replace the batteries if the smoke detector chirps (that is a warning that the battery is low).
- Once every 10 years: Buy new smoke detectors.
We all know that children can sometimes be curious, which can lead them into trouble when it comes to electricity. The following are a few tips for childproofing your home:
- Use short cords around children. A cord as short as 12 inches could be a choke hazard to a child.
- Ensure that you have taught your child the dangers of electricity and power lines. Instruct them to stay away from downed power lines and to tell them a grown-up about the downed line immediately.
- Install outlet covers so your child cannot poke a finger or object into an outlet.
- Unplug and put away fans, toasters, hair dryers, space heaters, and other small appliances that children may be tempted to play with.
- Tell your child about the dangers of mixing electricity and water.
- Teach children not to climb trees near power lines and never build a tree house near power lines.
- Teach children to stay away from anything marked Danger, High Voltage, or Keep Out.
- Electric powered mowers and other tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass, or in wet conditions.
- Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed power cords, broken plugs, and cracked or broken housings. If damaged, stop using immediately and repair or replace it.
- Always use extension cords marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools. Unplug all portable power tools when not in use.
- Watch out for overhead wires and power lines every time you use a ladder, work on a roof, prune trees, carry long tools or pipes, clean a pool, dig in the yard, install or remove an antenna.
Call Before Digging
Always call the Texas Evacuation Safety System (TESS) before you plan to dig. Their toll-free number is 1-800-DIG-TESS (344-8377). Whether it’s a small or a large construction or homeowner project (such as putting up a fence or clothes line, planting a garden or shrubbery, building a home addition, deck or foundation, etc.) you must call two full working days (not counting weekends or holidays) prior to digging. Check their website for more information athttp://www.digtess.org/
Bryan Texas Utilities subscribes to this service, and we will be informed of your call. Since you must call two full working days in advance, you give us time to mark the location of any underground electric lines.
IF YOU DIG INTO BTU’S LINES, YOU NOT ONLY EXPOSE YOURSELF TO A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION, BUT YOU’LL ALSO BE CHARGED FOR ALL REPAIRS!
If you hit a below ground electrical line:
- Call 911 and the utility company immediately at 979-822-3777.
- Keep everyone away from the area.
- DO NOT touch equipment and the ground at the same time.
- DO NOT get off equipment unless it is on fire.
- If you must get off, jump as far as you can and land with your feet together. Shuffle away with your feet together on the ground.
Stay Away from Downed Power Lines
- Never go near downed power lines! If you come across a power line that has fallen, call BTU dispatchimmediately at 979-822-3777.
- If a power line falls on your car, stay inside the car unless the car catches fire. If this should happen, jump clear of the car without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
- If someone comes in contact with a live outdoor power line, call BTU immediately so that the power can be shut off. Do not touch the victim or the power line!
Stay Away from Substations and Transformers
- Teach your children to stay away from utility substations and transformers. These high voltage areas can be very dangerous! Also, teach your children to recognize the “DANGER” signs that are on all high voltage equipment, and to stay away.
- If you notice a substation fence or transformer cabinet has been damaged, call BTU at 979-822-3777.
- Never climb utility poles or transmission towers.
Signs on Poles
Signs on poles create hazards!
BTU has several thousand utility poles on its system that are regularly inspected and maintained. These poles are not to be used as sign posts. Not only are these signs a blight on the landscape, distracting drivers and pedestrians; but more importantly, the nails, screws, and staples used to post signs present a safety hazard to our employees.
The damage is severe and expensive!
The nails and screws used to post signs create direct and indirect hazards for BTU crews. The primary danger is that these sharp objects can tear the rubber gloves and sleeves our employees wear to protect them from getting electrocuted. A secondary danger is the damage that’s done to the pole. Over time, water seeps into holes surrounding nails, damaging the pole. Eventually, the pole deteriorates and has to be replaced, creating another expense for BTU.
- Do not plant tall-growing trees underneath power lines.
- If you have a tree that has power lines running through it, do not let your children climb the tree, and do not build anything in it. If the tree needs to be trimmed or removed, call BTU.
- Do not plant shrubs near your electric meter.
- Some power lines are buried. Please make sure you CALL BEFORE YOU DIG!
Hot Tubs, Spas, and Pools
- Keep outlets near hot tubs, spas and pools covered and dry between uses. New outlet covers are available that offer weather protection while a plug is inserted into the outlet.
- Keep cords and plugs away from hot tubs, spas and pools and puddles from wet bathers. Never handle electrical items, plugs or outlets when wet.
- If an electrical product falls into water, do not reach into the water for it. Make sure you are dry and not in contact with water or metal surfaces and unplug it immediately or shut off the circuit powering the item.
- Hot tubs, spas and pools, and outlets on or near them should be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Many older swimming pools that pre-date the introduction of GFCIs in the 1970s should be upgraded to add GFCI protection for branch circuits supplying power to underwater pool lights operating above 15 volts, and outlets within 20 feet of the pool.
Kites & Balloons
- Never fly kites or model airplanes near power lines.
- Do not use metal or wire on kites
- Do not release metallic balloons! These balloons have an aluminum coating and are great conductors of electricity. If they get caught in power lines, they can cause power outages and surges.
When properly installed and operated, generators offer a safe, convenient means of powering equipment whenever electricity is unavailable. However, if improperly installed and operated, generators can be dangerous to BTU’s line crews, your neighbors, and you by creating a condition known as “backfeed”.
Backfeed is a very dangerous condition in which electricity from your generator flows back through your electrical panel and meter into BTU’s electrical system. Backfeeding can occur when a generator is connected to your home wiring system without disconnecting from BTU’s power system. The most common way this could occur is if you directly connect a generator to your electrical panel or to a circuit in your home. If you feed power back into the utility system during an outage, you will energize the transformer serving your house. This poses an electrocution hazard for BTU’s line crews and for your neighbors who may not know the lines are energized. If BTU power is restored while your generator is backfeeding, your generator may be severely damaged.
Backfeed can be prevented by always keeping the generator power and BTU power isolated from each other. The easiest solution is to simply plug items you want powered by the generator (for example, your freezer) directly into the generator. If powering the furnace fan is your objective you’ll need to use something called a transfer switch, which disconnects the home’s wiring from BTU’s electrical system.
Generator Installation Types
There are two basic types of backup generator installations:
- Permanent generators are isolated from BTU’s electrical system using a transfer switch installed between the generator and the electrical panel. The transfer switch allows power to be fed from only one source at a time.As shown below, transfer switches work by opening the connection to the utility before closing the generator connection. Transfer switches become part of your building wiring system. The National Electrical Code requires transfer switches for permanently installed generators. If you are considering the installation of a permanent generator, contact a competent electrician to learn more about the proper installation of permanent generators and transfer switches.
- Portable generators are usually connected directly to an appliance or piece of equipment through an extension cord. As long as the equipment is not hard-wired to the building’s electrical panel, there is no path back to the panel. Transfer switches are available to safely connect portable generators to building electrical systems.
Generator operating safety
In addition to installing your generator safely, there are several important safety rules to follow when you are operating the generator.
- Always read and follow the guidelines in the generator’s operating manual.
- The generator should always be located in a well ventilated area.
- Know how to shut the generator off quickly in case of emergency.
- Never modify a generator in any way.
- Never refuel a generator while it is running or hot.
- Periodically run the generator to assure it will start and run properly.
For portable generators a few additional safety rules apply.
- Use adequately sized extension cords.
- Set the generator on a firm, level surface.
- Operate the generator in a dry location.
Tell us about your generator
If you intend to run your generator during an electrical outage, call our 24-hour Outage/Emergency Hotline Phone at (979) 822-3777.
Electrical fires can damage your home and possibly cause harm to your family. It is vitally important to take steps to prevent fires, as well as to know what to do if an electrical fire occurs.
If an electrical fire happens:
- Make sure everyone leaves the house.
- Call the fire department right away by dialing 911.
- If the fire is small, unplug or disconnect any appliance, tool, or equipment that is on fire. If this is not possible, then shut off the power at the main breaker panel or fuse box.
- NEVER pour water on live wires or appliances.
- Use a fire extinguisher rated for electrical fires or toss baking soda on the fire.
IF YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE FIRE, GET OUT OF OR AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE IMMEDIATELY AND CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT FROM A NEIGHBOR’S PHONE OR A CELL PHONE.
If someone has received a serious electrical shock:
- call 911 immediately. You may also need to provide first aid for the victim until help arrives.
- If the victim isn’t breathing, you will need to give them artificial respiration until they begin to breathe on their own, or until help arrives. You will also need to give CPR to restore their heartbeat. You need professional training to do either of these. Without the proper training, you could do more harm than good. If you do not have the training, and would like to learn, the local chapter of the American Red Cross offers low-cost, convenient classes in CPR, artificial respiration and first aid.
- If the victim is in shock (weak, rapid pulse; cool, pale skin; irregular breathing), try to find the cause. For instance, check to see if the victim is breathing, or is bleeding. Treat the cause if you know what to do. If you aren’t sure what you should do, call the hospital or 911.
- For a victim of a serious electrical shock you should follow these first aid measures:
- Keep the victim lying down. If they are unconscious and appear to be having trouble breathing, lay them on their side. This will help keep their airway clear. But don’t move the victim unless it’s absolutely necessary! They might have a neck or spine injury.
- Cover them just enough so that they maintain their body heat.
- If the victim has been burned, the type of first aid will depend on how badly they are burned:
- For minor burns, apply cool water. Blot dry and apply a dry, sterile bandage.
- For severe burns, cover with a sterile bandage.
Whether at home or at school, before severe weather arrives, here are some general things that you can do to prepare:
- Locate a safe shelter area.
- Store drinking water, first aid kit, canned/no-cook food, manual can opener, radio, and flashlight with extra batteries all where you can find them easily in the dark.
- Keep essential medicines on hand.
- Keep cars and other vehicles fueled and in good repair and have a winter emergency kit in each one.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor severe weather.
- Know how the public is warned (siren, radio, TV, etc.) and the warning terms for each kind of weather related emergency.
- Watch for developing thunderstorms.
- Each flash of cloud-to-ground lightning is a potential killer.
- Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm.
- If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek shelter immediately.
- The safest place is indoors, away from windows, doors and electrical appliances.
- Stay away from all conductors of electricity such as chain link fences, play equipment, and water.
- If you are caught out in the open, drop to your knees and crouch low to the ground.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter. Do not be fooled by sunshine or blue skies.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items such as canned food, water, first aid supplies, protective clothing, sleeping bags, radio, and flashlights.
- Pick a safe place in your home such as a basement, interior hallway, closet, or bathroom on the lowest floor.
- If you live in a mobile home, choose a nearby sturdy building.
- Stay away from windows.
- Listen to the radio for up-to-date storm information.
- NEVER try to outrun a tornado. Get out of your car and head for shelter.
- Be aware of warning signs including a dark, greenish sky, large hail, and a loud roar similar to a freight train.
- After a tornado passes – watch out for fallen power lines and stay out of damaged areas. Listen to the radio for information or instructions.
- Climb to higher ground.
- Do not attempt to walk, swim, or drive through flood waters.
- Just 6 inches of rapidly moving water can knock you off of your feet
- Two feet of water can float a large vehicle, even a bus
- Stay away from storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts.
- Make sure you have cash and a full tank of gas in case you have to evacuate quickly.
- If your call stalls, leave it immediately and head for safety.
When a WATCH is issued
Outside your home:
- Locate storm shutters, boards, garage door supports and any hardware or tools necessary for installation.
- Do not prune trees at this time, it is too late. Trash collection will be delayed and loose branches may become dangerous wind-blown projectiles.
- Fill all your vehicles with fuel. If electricity is off after the storm, service stations may not be able to pump gas for several days or longer. Park your vehicle in the garage or pull it up as close as possible to the side of the home.
- Locate water, gas and electric shutoffs. You should shut them off if you evacuate.
Inside your home:
- Go over your family plan and make sure everyone knows what will be expected of them.
- Check your hurricane supply list and make sure you have all the items on hand.
- Check medical supplies and prescription medicines and ensure that you have at least a two week supply. Check first-aid kit.
- Make sure all battery operated TV’s, radios, flashlights and lanterns are in good working order with plenty of spare batteries.
- Make sure you have enough cash on hand. Lines at the ATM, banks and grocery stores may be long and they could run out of cash or be closed.
- Make sure everyone knows where the fire extinguisher is located.
When a WARNING is issued
Outside your home:
- Begin installing storm shutters or plywood and door braces. Remember, all window openings need to be covered and all doors must withstand hurricane force winds (including garage door).
- Unplug your television before attempting to lower an outdoor antenna. Take great care not to allow the antenna anywhere near an electrical line.
- Do not drain in-ground pools completely. Drain approximately one foot to allow for possible heavy rains. Super-chlorinate to avoid contamination. Disconnect and protect electrical pumps.
- Bring in any outdoor objects that could be blown away including lawn furniture, potted plants, barbecue pits, etc. and encourage neighbors to do the same.
- Disconnect propane gas tanks and turn off the main gas line.
Inside your home:
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings. Freeze water in plastic jugs and fill empty spaces to help keep food cold. Make sure you have at least 7 gallons of water per person on hand. You can buy bottled water or fill clean empty plastic jugs with tap water. Plenty of fresh drinking water is an absolute must after a major hurricane.
- Clean a bathtub using bleach and rinse thoroughly and let dry. Seal the drain with caulk and fill the tub. This water is to be used for bathing and sanitary purposes only, not for drinking.
- Prepare your safe room. Stock it with a battery-powered TV and/or radio with spare batteries, sleeping bags and pillows, chairs, snacks and drinking water. Do not forget diapers if necessary. Have a mattress nearby in case your home suffers structural damage.
- Place valuables and personal papers in waterproof containers or plastic trash bags. Store them as high as possible. If you are evacuating, you may be required to provide proof of residency before being allowed to return to an evacuation area after a storm.
- Close all windows.
- Put as many loose objects as possible in drawers.
- Call your out of town contact and tell them where you will be during the hurricane.
- Mobile home residents should evacuate; do not stay in a mobile home during any hurricane.
- High rise condo residents should bring in loose objects from balconies; install shutters on windows and sliding doors. Evacuate if you are in an evacuation zone or on an upper floor.
- Try to eat a meal before you leave for a shelter.
- Stay tuned to your local TV or radio stations for weather updates and evacuation information.
During the storm
Stay informed by watching or listening to your local TV or radio stations for updates. Talk or read to young children and reassure them that it may take a little while, but eventually the storm will pass.
- Weather conditions will deteriorate rapidly as the storm gets closer. All of your preparations should have been made. If you missed something, it’s too late. Stay indoors away from windows. Consider turning off circuit breakers before the power goes off (power surges and spikes can damage electronic equipment). You may leave one breaker on that feeds a lamp so you will know when the power is back on.
- When the power goes out, use flashlights (not candles or kerosene lamps) during the storm.
- Once you get into your safe room, stay there even if you hear breaking glass or worse.
- If your house begins to break apart, cover yourself with the mattress and pillows. If your safe room is a full bathroom, you can get into the bathtub and then cover yourself with the mattress. Stay tuned to your local TV or radio stations. Do not leave your safe room until you hear an official “all’s clear”. If the wind dies down, you may be in the eye of the storm. Winds may resume at any time as strong or stronger.
- Use the phone for urgent calls only.
After the storm has passed
Once the “all’s clear” has been given by local officials you can come out of your safe room, but use extreme caution. If your home has structural damage, get out until it is inspected by officials.
- Locate the fire extinguisher before attempting to turn the power back on. Stay away from all downed power lines and especially water puddles near downed lines.
- Supervise children at all times. Do not use the telephone except for emergencies. Do not dial 911 unless it is a life threatening emergency.
- Do not report individual power, water, gas or phone problems. Utility companies will restore service as quickly as possible. Be prepared for the possibility of a long wait. Try to be patient and do not drink tap water until you have been assured by officials that it is safe. Do not pile debris near power poles as it may impede repairs.
- When possible, call your out of town contact and tell them you’re alright. Avoid driving. Tune to your local TV or radio stations or log on to www.Caller.com for the latest updates.
- Be aware of and obey curfew laws. Use caution in approaching someone else’s property, you could be mistaken for a looter.
- Stay indoors whenever possible.
- Remember that icy patches can make walking hazardous.
- Be on alert for signs of hypothermia, including drowsiness, low blood pressure, slow or irregular heartbeat, and slurred speech.
- Dress warmly and in layers.
- Prepare an alternative source of heat such as a fireplace, wood stove, or portable generator.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one:
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it at least three feet away from fireplaces and radiators. Heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, so be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways with the tree.
- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks, or run strings of lights through hooks made for that purpose.
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights as they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- If your electric service is interrupted, check with a neighbor to see if you are the only one without service. If you are, check your panel box for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
- Check to see if all of the breakers are in the “on” position. If any breakers are in the “off” position, flip them back to the “on” position. A blown fuse should be replaced with a new one of the same amperage.
Generally, this will correct a simple interruption. If it doesn’t solve your problem, call Bryan Texas Utilities at 979-822-3777. There is someone there to answer your call 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. If you try to call to report an outage and our line is busy, please keep trying. Do not assume your neighbors have already called in (they may not call us because they think you will). Give your name, address and telephone number and, to the best of your ability, describe the problem. For example, a fallen tree across a wire, or a flash at the transformer. If you have additional information, please pass it along.
- If you use a back-up generator, please let us know.
- Never connect a generator directly to your home’s wiring or to a regular power outlet. A portable electric generator directly connected to your home’s wiring can ‘back feed’ onto the power lines connected to your home, which can be deadly to anyone coming in contact with them, including linemen making repairs. If a lineman is repairing the cause of the outage, even if it’s far down the lines, the sudden increase in volts running through the lines can cause severe injury or death.
- A properly sized transfer switch should be installed to prevent the possibility of generator ‘back feed’ on to the power lines.
- Plan before you buy. Have a licensed electrician find out what type of power output you would need for a generator to run the appliances in your home.
- If you currently have a generator, check the output rating before use to make sure it can handle your power needs.
- Always read the manufacturer’s safety instructions before using a generator.
- Make sure the generator is properly grounded.
- Never use a portable generator inside your home, garage, or in any other closed area. A generator releases toxic carbon monoxide gas into the air, which is extremely dangerous. Place a generator in a dry, well-ventilated, outdoor area and keep it sheltered from rain and snow.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated in watts or amps equal to or greater than the sum of the connected appliance loads.
- Do not overload the generator. A portable generator should be used only when necessary and only to power essential equipment or appliances. Overloading will damage your appliances and the generator.
- Make sure fuel for the generator is stored safely, in properly labeled containers and away from fuel burning appliances.
- Always turn the generator off and let it cool down before re-fueling.
- Turn off all appliances powered by the generator before shutting the generator down.
- Keep children away from portable generators at all times.