The stance most of us take with our electrical system is "out of sight, out of mind', but sometimes it can act in ways we don't expect. Read up on these 5 scenarios so you aren't left in the dark (or worse)!
What To Do If... a GFCI Trips the Circuit.
If your GFCI has cut off power to whatever appliance you are using, it is because the current began leaking instead of all being directed back to the source. One of the most common causes is that the appliance has come into contact with moisture. If your GFCI trips:
- Turn off and unplug the appliance. (It's easy to forget to actually turn it off since the power has already been cut off, but if you don't then you're in for a surprise when you plug it back in!)
- Check it for moisture. If you find any, dry it off thoroughly.
- Make sure your hands are dry.
- Plug the appliance back in.
- Press the "reset" button on the GFCI.
- Turn the appliance back on.
If the outlet still does not work or continues to trip frequently, call an electrician as there may be a greater problem than moisture.
What To Do If... Your Electricity Goes Out.
You're sitting there minding your own business and the next thing you know, it's pitch black and your music has stopped, the microwave doesn't show the time, and the sorrowful howl of a wolf echoes on the wind as scraggly branches scrape your window like long fingers. Maybe.
First things first- assess your situation. Did ALL of your power go out, or just a portion of the house? What is the weather like? Have you got practically-apocalyptic thunderstorms, or is it bright and sunny?
Next, get thee to the electrical panel. Check all of the breakers including the main breaker: are any of them tripped? If so, switch them back to "on" and see if that solves your problem. If not....
Check to see if anyone else in your area has experienced a power outage, and call your electricity provider's emergency number.
In a situation like this you will discover very quickly whether you are prepared. Have you got emergency candles, matches, blankets, and a battery-powered radio in an easy-to-reach place?
What To Do If... Someone Experiences an Electrical Shock.
As you may know, electrical shocks can occur with different levels of severity. Some do little more than raise the hair on your arms and make a loud "POP". Others leave a nasty burn. Others still leave no evidence at all, but that doesn't mean they are not dangerous.
The first thing to do is to make sure that the individual is no longer in contact with the source of the shock. Whether it was an outlet, an appliance, or a conductor, make sure that the victim is no longer touching it. In the event of a severe burn during which the muscles seize and the victim can't let go, the first thing you should do is try and turn the power off at the breaker.
- DO NOT touch the source of the shock, even if that's where the power switch is.
- Turn off the main breaker if you have to. If this is not possible, use something dry and non-conductive (like a dry wooden broomstick) to push the person away from the source.
- Call 911.
After a less-severe shock (that the victim was able to let go of by his/herself), have the victim sit down and assess the damage:
- Are there any burns or marks at the shock location?
- Does the victim feel lightheaded, dizzy, or have vague pain anywhere in his/her body? It is possible for internal organs to be damaged from a shock even if you can't see any outward signs.
- If anything seems "off", such as tingling, numbness, paralysis, vision/speech/hearing problems, or any period of unconsciousness, seek medical attention regardless of how the person says he/she feels.
What to Do If... An Electrical Fire Breaks Out
Electrical fires are special. Contrary to everything we learned in school about fire, you can't fight an electrical fire with water. Water plus electricity equals more danger. If you accidentally get wet near volatile electrical wiring or equipment, or even touch anything wet near the electrical source you are putting yourself in serious danger.
If a fire breaks out and you know that it has an electrical source (such as at an outlet, at your electrical panel, or an appliance that is plugged in), use a chemical fire extinguisher to put out the flame. Baking soda is also a good choice, if you can get to it safely and quickly. Never try to put it out with water. If you don't have access to a chemical extinguisher, unplug the equipment if it is safe to do so, turn off the power at the electrical panel if you can, and exit the area.
Call 911 and tell them it is an electrical fire so they can combat it properly and safely.
What to Do If...You Discover Damaged Wires/Wiring
Say you're doing a little TLC around the house, maybe working on a honey-do list, and you discover some wires that are cracked, frayed, or otherwise damaged. Regardless of whether they are still functioning, it is important to immediately call a licensed electrician to have them inspect it and replace the wiring if necessary.
If you are concerned that the wiring may cause an immediate hazard (the outlet/switch/area is hot to the touch, buzzing, or emitting smoke or sparks), turn off the power at the circuit breaker. Do not use electricity in that area until the problem has been resolved.
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