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Electrical Safety

Outdoor Electrical

There are several things you can do to help keep you and your family safe from electrical hazards when working or playing outdoors:

Remember electricity is always trying to find the easiest path to ground. It travels through conductors. Good conductors are water, metal (like copper wire) and people. People are such good conductors because the human body is about 70% water. That’s why electricity often uses your body as the easiest pathway to ground.

Be aware of any electrical hazards in or around your property. Don’t put off simple precautions or repairs. You may save a family member’s life!

You’re not sure whether those lines are electrical wires or telephone wires? Don’t guess! Assume any wire is energized. STAY AWAY!

Call Before You Dig

Always call Indiana Underground Plant Protection Systems before you plan to dig. Their toll-free number is 1-800-382-5544. Large or small, before starting any home construction 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.

Richmond Power & Light 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 RP&L’S LINES, YOU NOT ONLY EXPOSE YOURSELF TO A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION, BUT YOU’LL ALSO BE CHARGED FOR ALL REPAIRS!

Stay Away from Power Lines

Use ladders made out of wood or fiberglass, NOT METAL, when working near power lines. And never set a ladder where it can fall into power lines!  When you carry a ladder, hold it low enough to avoid hitting overhead power lines. Don’t install an antenna where it would hit a power line if it fell.

Stay Away from Downed Power Lines

Assume all wires to be energized!

Never go near downed power lines! If you come across a power line that has fallen, call RP&L immediately at 765-973-7200.

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 911 immediately! They will call RP&L so that the power can be shut off. Don’t touch the victim or the power line!

Check Your Electrical Equipment

Make sure your power tools are properly grounded when you plug them in, and that you only use heavy-duty extension cords that are rated for outdoor use.

Check to make sure that your outdoor electrical outlets are properly grounded, and that they have weather-proof covers over them.

Only install lights outside that are intended for outdoor use. (This goes for Christmas lights, too!)

Keep electrical power tools away from water. Never use power tools if you’re standing in water or on a wet surface.

Use Caution When Landscaping

Don’t plant tall-growing trees underneath power lines.

If you have a tree that has power lines running through it, don’t let your children climb the tree, and don’t build anything in it. If the tree needs to be trimmed or removed, call RP&L.

Don’t plant shrubs near your electric meter.

Some power lines are buried. Please make sure you CALL BEFORE YOU DIG!

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 RP&L at 765-973-7200.

Never climb utility poles or transmission towers.

Kite & Balloon Safety

Never fly kites or model airplanes near power lines.

Don’t use metal or wire on kites. Use dry string instead.

Don’t release metallic balloons! These balloons have an aluminum coating, and are great conductors of electricity. If these balloons get caught in power lines they can cause power outages, and can also cause power surges that can damage electronic equipment such as computers.

Watch Out for Lightning

If you are caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, get indoors as fast as possible. If you can’t get indoors, try to stay away from trees. Wet wood and tall objects attract lightning.

If you are outdoors in a thunderstorm, and you are the tallest object around, sit or lie down. You won’t be very comfortable, but it may just save your life!

If you are swimming or boating when a thunderstorm occurs, get to shore and away from the water as fast as possible.

If you are on the golf course, seek shelter immediately. Don’t continue to play, and never hold the metal club in your hand during a thunderstorm!

Indoor Electrical

Always make sure your hands are dry and that you are standing on a dry surface before you touch a light switch or electrical cord, or turn on an electrical appliance.

Check the wiring on appliances before you plug them in. Make sure there aren’t any exposed wires that could start a fire or electrocute someone.

Keep all electrical appliances away from sinks and bathtubs. If the appliance would fall into the water, you could be electrocuted. Never use any electrical appliance while you’re in the bathtub or shower.

Never put metal objects into an appliance unless the appliance has been unplugged.

When you buy a new appliance, make sure that it has been approved by a testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (U/L). This shows that the appliance has passed a series of safety tests.

Always read the instructions before you operate a new electrical appliance.

Don’t plug too many things into one outlet. This will overload the circuit and may start a fire!

Never run extension cords (or any electrical cords) underneath rugs.

Keep all electrical cords away from heat sources.

If you are indoors during a thunderstorm, stay away from windows, and turn off your TV and other appliances.

Check Your Wiring

All electric wiring must be installed and inspected by a licensed electrician, per Richmond City Code. Homes that were wired for electricity between 1965 and 1973 may have aluminum wiring, which may be dangerous. If you know, or believe, your home may have been wired between these years, have your wiring checked by a licensed electrician.

In order for your household wiring to be considered safe, it should include the following:

  1. A metal circuit breaker or fuse box rated for at least 100 amps.
  2. Three kinds of circuits: A) Fixed equipment circuits are for high-wattage appliances such as your stove, washer, dryer or refrigerator. B) General purpose circuits are usually 15 amps for lights and small appliances such as a radio, TV or lamp. C) Kitchen and dining area circuits are usually 20 amps for medium wattage appliances, such as a toaster, iron or coffee maker.
  3. GFCI’s (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters) are devices that reduce the risk of electric shock. They shut off the power when problems occur. Outlets that are installed in areas where they might get wet, such as a bathroom or outdoors, should be protected with a GFCI.

Fuses & Circuit Breakers

Fuses and circuit breakers control the electricity that flows to various areas of your house. For instance, one fuse or circuit breaker might control the electricity to your kitchen while another controls the flow of electricity to your living room. Fuses and circuit breakers also shut off the electricity automatically in the event of any of the following:

  1. Short Circuits – which can occur when a bare wire allows the electricity to take a shortcut.
  2. Overloads – which are caused by plugging too many appliances into one outlet.
  3. Defective Parts – which can cause a fire, or present a risk of electric shock.

By shutting themselves off, fuses and circuit breakers help prevent fires and/or injuries in your home or business.

What to do if a fuse blows:

  1. Isolate the cause of the problem (frayed wire, bad appliance, etc.). Unplug the cause of the problem.
  2. Shut off the main power switch on the fuse box.
  3. Correct the problem.
  4. Replace the blown fuse with a new one. (Make sure it’s the proper rating.)
  5. Turn the main power switch back on.

What to do if a circuit breaker is tripped:

  1. Isolate the cause of the problem (frayed wire, bad appliance, etc.). Unplug the cause of the problem.
  2. Shut off the main power switch on the fuse box.
  3. Correct the problem.
  4. Reset the circuit breaker according to the instructions.
  5. Turn the main power switch back on.

Using Extension Cords

Make sure that you use an extension cord that has been approved by a testing laboratory (such as “U/L Approved”). You will also need to make sure that the extension cord is the right one for the location where it will be used, and for the type of electrical load it will be carrying. For instance, you’ll need a heavy-duty cord for power tools, a weather resistant cord for outdoor use, or a three-wire cord with a three-prong plug for tools or appliances that need grounding.

Never remove the third prong on a three-prong plug to make it fit into a standard household outlet! The third prong is the ground wire.

Pick a Safe Spot

Don’t put an extension cord where it’s likely to be stepped on or damaged. And make sure to keep all extension cords away from heat sources and from water.

Don’t use extension cords as a substitute for electrical outlets. Overloading your outlet with too many appliances can cause a fire!

Check Extension Cords for Wear

Make sure the cord isn’t showing any signs of wear before and after you use it. Pay special attention to the plug to make sure it isn’t pulling loose. If you see any signs of wear, don’t use the cord. Worn out extension cords can cause shorts, shocks or fires.

Handle With Care

Don’t twist, crush or kink the extension cord. This could break the wires inside the cord. When you unplug an extension cord (or any other plug) pull on the plug, not the cord!

Safety & Household Appliances

All household appliances should have a label from a testing laboratory (such as “U/L Approved”) to show that it has passed the necessary safety standard tests. Before you use a new appliance, read the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Large appliances need circuits of various types and sizes. If you will be bringing a large appliance into your home, and you’re not sure if you have an adequate outlet or proper wiring, call a service person or a licensed electrician. Your owner’s manual will also help you find out what you need.

General Safety Tips:

Never use an electric appliance while touching metal (especially plumbing), standing on a wet surface, or while taking a shower or bath.

Make sure to unplug appliances before you clean them, repair them, or when they aren’t being used.

Keep the appliance motors clean. NOTE: If an appliance smokes, sparks or gives you a shock, unplug it immediately! Call a service person to repair it before you try to use it again.

Never put metal objects into an appliance or an electrical outlet.

Teach your children not to play with electrical cords and wall outlets. If you have small children, cover your wall outlets with plastic safety caps. These are very affordable, and are available at most hardware stores.

Using Power Tools

You should always be careful when using power tools. Always keep your hands and fingers away from power saws and drills, and always wear safety goggles to keep sawdust and flying debris out of your eyes.

Wear rubber soled shoes and rubber gloves whenever you use a power tool in a damp or wet area. And don’t wear clothes that could get caught or tangled up in power tools.

You also need to take extra care where the electrical power for your tools is concerned. Following these six simple rules will help keep your work area safe:

  1. Check the circuits in your work area. You should have plenty of grounded outlets (protected by a GFCI) that are wired with the right number of amps for the tools you use.
  2. Use safety features such as three-prong plugs (when your tools aren’t double-insulated) and safety switches to prevent the tools from starting up accidentally.
  3. Maintain your tools by keeping them clean, oiled (if necessary), and in good working condition. Repair or replace damaged tools.
  4. Store and use your tools in a safe, dry place.
  5. Protect power cords from heat sources, chemicals, oil, etc. When storing extension cords, coil the cords loosely and put them in a clean, dry place.
  6. Clean up your work area as needed. Sawdust, wood shavings, paper and rags all increase the risk of fire.