Electric Safety

Electricity provides the energy to turn on the lights, power a television and keep food cold in the refrigerator. But, if not used properly, electricity can be very dangerous.

For more safety information, visit Safe Electricity, a multi-media public awareness program designed to provide information about electrical safety to consumers and educators.



Electricity provides the energy to turn on the lights, power a television and keep food cold in the refrigerator. But, if not used properly, electricity can be very dangerous.

Electricity travels, or is conducted, through wires to electrical outlets in your home. Wrapped around the wires is rubber, plastic or other insulating materials which protect or insulate us from the electricity.

But, if this protection is broken and electricity touches you, you could be zapped by an electrical shock or be burned.

Around the house there are many ways in which electricity can hurt you if it is not used the right way. You should never put anything into an outlet except an electrical plug, and if a power cord is broken and you can see the wires inside, the cord should not be used. Also, if your hands are wet or you are standing in water you should never plug in or touch anything that uses electricity. Water is good conductor of electricity.

There are dangers outside, too. If you come across a power line that has fallen to the ground, call for help and stay far away from it. Remember, too, that you should never climb electric poles or towers. And did you know that if you climbed a tree that is touching a power line or raise a stick or pole to touch an electrical line, you could get zapped?

Your local electric cooperative provides a powerful tool you use every day: electricity. Use it safely.

Safety Tips

Electricity, when used properly, is a safe and convenient form of energy, but when used improperly, electricity can cause fires, shocks, injuries, and even death. The following safety tips will help you avoid electrical accidents.

  • Be careful with electrical cords; don’t place cords where people will trip over them or where they will receive excessive wear; keep cords away from heat and water; don’t pull on cords to disconnect them, pull on the plug; and don’t twist, kink or crush cords.
  • Never use an appliance while standing in water or when wet.
  • Don’t touch metal plumbing or metal objects and appliances at the same time.
  • Keep combustible materials away from lamps or heating devices.
  • Disconnect appliances before cleaning.
  • Keep ladders away from electric power lines.
  • Turn off circuits when changing lightbulbs.
  • In case of an electrical fire, call the fire department, unplug the appliance if it is safe to do so, and use a class “C” rated fire extinguisher or baking soda. Never use water.
  • Never touch broken electric lines. Call the police and the electric company immediately.
  • In case of electric shock, do not touch the victim until the electricity is turned off. If the victim is in contact with the electric power lines, the only safe procedure is to call the power company. If the victim is in contact with a low voltage cord, use a dry rope or stick to remove the victim. Call the hospital and, if necessary, give artificial respiration or, for shock, cover victim and raise the victim’s feet.
  • Never attempt to remove a kite from electric power lines, and be aware of the location of electric power lines when flying kites.
  • When climbing trees, be sure that electric power lines don’t touch the tree; if they do, don’t climb the tree.

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One of the greatest pastimes for kids of all ages is flying kites each spring. While we want kids of all ages to enjoy this sport, we also want them to be careful not to get their kites tangled up in power lines.

Every year in this country, children are electrocuted when their kite strings come in contact with a power line. Even though kite string is not a conductor of electricity, it can easily become contaminated with dirt and sweat, which will conduct the electrical current down the kite string. Electricity is always trying to find the shortest path to ground. It is not picky as to what path it uses.

If that path is a kite string with conducting properties and a child, it doesn’t care. It will follow that path until the path is broken We cannot emphasize enough the danger involved with flying kites near power lines. Instruct your children not to fly their kites close to any power line. Find a park or a wide-open area to fly kites. If a kite or kite string does come in contact with a power line, turn loose of the string.

A person’s life is much more valuable than any kite. If the kite or string becomes tangled in the power line, don’t try and get it out. Call your co-op, and linemen will be glad to come and extricate it from the power line. Kites and power lines just don’t mix.

Lightning is a consistent and significant weather hazard that may affect sports teams and other groups while they’re enjoying the outdoors. In Colorado, most lightning fatalities occur in June, July and August, when more people are outdoors and thunderstorms are more prevalent. Within the United States, the National Severe Storms Laboratory estimates that 100 fatalities and 400-500 injuries requiring medical treatment occur from lightning strikes each year. While the probability of being struck by lightning is extremely low, the odds are significantly greater when a storm is in the area and the proper safety precautions are not followed.

As someone in charge of outdoor activities or as a parent with children involved in outdoor activities, it is important to help educate yourself and others about the dangers of lightning so that injuries and fatalities can be prevented. Education begins with background information on lightning. Prevention should begin long before any outdoor activities take place. The following steps are helpful to mitigate lightning hazards.

Monitor the weather

Designate a chain of command as to who monitors threatening weather and who makes the decision to remove people from an outdoor activity. An emergency plan should include planned instructions for participants as well as spectators. Those who are monitoring the weather should obtain a weather report each day an activity is planned. Be aware of potential thunderstorms that may form during an event.

Also, be aware of National Weather Service-issued thunderstorm watches and warnings, as well as signs of thunderstorms developing nearby. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. A warning means that severe weather has been reported in an area.

Know your location

Lightning often strikes tall, large objects. If you’re outside, get away from high ground and don’t stand under tall trees or poles. Make yourself as small as possible, but don’t lie flat on the ground. The best thing to do is to squat low to the ground, put your hands on your knees with your head between them.

Know where the closest safe structure or location is in relation to the field or area of the activity. Know how long it takes to get there. A safe structure or location is any building normally occupied or frequently used by people. A building with plumbing or electrical wiring that acts to electrically ground the structure is ideal. If such a building isn’t nearby, a vehicle with a hard metal roof and rolled-up windows — not a convertible or a golf cart — can provide a measure of safety. While in the vehicle, do not touch the sides of the car, which is the path that electricity would follow if it struck the vehicle.

Understand the flash-to-bang method

Be aware of how close lightning actually is. The flash-to-bang method is the easiest and most convenient way to estimate how far away lightning is occurring. Thunder always accompanies lightning, even though its audible range can be diminished due to background noise and its distance from the observer. To use the flash-to-bang method, count the seconds from the time the lightning is seen to when the clap of thunder is heard. Divide this number by five to determine how many miles away the lightning is occurring.

Follow National Severe Storms Laboratory guidelines

  • As a minimum, when a flash-to-bang count of 30 seconds (six miles) is reached, all individuals should have left the event site and reached a safe structure.
  • The existence of a blue sky or the absence of rain does not mean lightning will not strike. Lightning can, and does, strike as far as 10 miles away from where it is raining.
  • If no safe structure is nearby, find a thick grove of small trees surrounded by taller trees or find a dry ditch. Crouch down with only the balls of your feet touching the ground, wrap your arms around your knees and lower your head. Do not lie flat because lightning often enters through the ground rather than from overhead. Be sure you’re away from metal objects, individual trees, water and open fields.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end or your skin tingle, crouch down immediately, as described above.
  • Don’t use a landline telephone except in emergency situations. A cellular phone or portable phone is a better alternative if used within a safe structure.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
  • If someone is struck by lightning, he or she does not carry an electrical charge so it is safe to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Prompt, aggressive CPR has been highly effective for the survival of victims of lightning strikes.

Before the Storm

It is important to know how to recognize when you are at risk for a lightning storm. Knowing that a storm is coming will allow you to make plans to be indoors before the storm strikes.

  • Check the internet or TV/radio stations for the forecast before leaving the house
  • Check the radar and lightning detection sections of WeatherBug.com or other websites to see if storms are approaching.
  • Storms can form overhead, so always check the sky for large cumulus clouds as these are the first sign of thunderstorms.
  • If you feel like a storm is on its way, it is imperative to stop your outdoor activities and move to a safe indoor area.
  • Lightning can strike before the rain, so be someplace safe before the threat is upon you. To know the distance of a storm, use the 30-second rule. Count how many seconds from the flash until you hear thunder. If it is greater than 30 seconds, this means you are at least 6 miles away from the storm. If less than 30 seconds, this means you are in the threat area and you should take cover immediately.

Outside During a Storm

You should never be outside during a thunderstorm. If you are outside when a storm strikes, find shelter as soon as possible. If you are not near shelter during a thunderstorm, here are a few things you can do to greatly reduce your chances of being struck:

  • Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the area is not prone to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shortest trees.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • Be a very small target. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Laying flat on the ground will actually make you a larger target.

Wait 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning was seen before it is safe to return to your activities.

Inside During a Storm

Indoors is the safest place during a storm; however, there are still hazards to watch out for.
  • Do not use corded phones. Lightning can travel through the phone lines and electrocute you.
  • Lightning can also travel through pipes. Do not take showers, baths, or wash dishes while a thunderstorm is occurring.
  • Have a flashlight and/or candles available. Power failures often occur during thunderstorms.
  • Unplug or turn off electronics. Lightning can cause damaging power surges.

Struck by Lightning

  • If you see someone get struck by lightning it is important that you help them as soon as possible.
  • A person struck by lightning carries no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Call for help by dialing 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number.
  • The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned. He/she could have burns where he/she was struck and where the electricity left his/her body.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.

Facts About Electricity

Have you ever wondered why birds and squirrels don’t get zapped by electricity when they sit on electrical wires? It’s because they are not touching the ground or, in other words, they’re not grounded. It helps to understand the nature of electricity. Electricity is always trying to reach the ground and if an electrical conductor, such as a power line, provides the path, electricity will follow it.

When a bird lands on one wire, the bird’s legs and the wire are equally charged. In other words, they are at the same voltage level or “potential.” Most birds do not get electrocuted because they are at the same potential as the lines they are sitting on and therefore do not create a current flow. The same is true of squirrels when they land on the wire.

The voltage level or potential changes when a bird or squirrel touches a part of the structure going to ground. Suddenly, part of the animal will be charged and the other part won’t. In that case, a bird or squirrel would get electrocuted, just as a person would.