The Power of Preparation: After the Hurricane

Oct 7, 2016

The Atlantic hurricane season is the current tropical cyclone season in the North Atlantic Ocean, which officially began on June 1 and will end on November 30. On average, this region will have six hurricanes per year.

When the news breaks that a hurricane is approaching, preparing to make your home safe for you and your family is your first priority. Once the hurricane passes, assessing the damage and determining the safety of your home is critical.

Getting the power back on

First the power needs to get back on. That’s where Southwire’s Energy Division comes to the aid of its utility customers to help them deal with hurricanes and major storms. In many cases, Southwire’s manufacturing plants anticipate their utility customers’ needs by delivering wire as soon as a storm hits. This enables the utilities to get the power flowing to homes and businesses once again in a more timely fashion.

Southwire is a supporter of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). It is the premier nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.

In the aftermath of a hurricane where heavy flooding has occurred, there may be hidden electrical hazards. Before beginning the cleanup effort, ESFI recommends you have a qualified electrician check the house’s wiring, assess other damage and then have a professional proceed with repair work.

Safety tips from ESFI

During the assessment stage, ESFI also recommends you should follow these important safety tips:

  • Take care when stepping into a flooded area. Be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, creating a potentially lethal trap.
  • Have an electrician, not you, inspect electrical appliances that have been wet, and do not turn on or plug in appliances unless an electrician tells you it is safe. Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if re-energized without proper reconditioning or replacement.
  • A qualified service repair dealer should examine all electrical equipment that has gotten wet. Certain equipment will require replacement, while a trained professional may be able to recondition other devices.
  • If you must attempt to touch a circuit breaker or try and replace a fuse, make sure your hands are not wet and you are not standing on a wet surface. Use a dry plastic- or rubber-insulated tool to reset breakers, and use only one hand. If using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or pressure washer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Know when to recondition or replace electrical appliances

After a serious flood from a hurricane, water can damage the motors in electrical appliances and some electrical items may need to be reconditioned, while others will need to be completely replaced to protect you and your family. It is recommended that you allow an electrician or electrical inspector to guide the restoration or replacement of any electrical wiring or equipment.

Corrosion and insulation damage can occur when water and silt get inside electrical devices and products. Water can also damage the motors in electrical appliances. Therefore, you should be prepared to replace:

  • Circuit breakers and fuses
  • All electrical wiring systems
  • Light switches, thermostats, outlets, light fixtures, electric heaters and ceiling fans
  • Furnace burner and blower motors, ignition transformers, elements, and relays for furnaces and hot water tanks
  • Hot water tanks
  • Washing machines, dryers, furnaces, heat pumps, freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, vacuums, power tools, exercise equipment and similar appliances
  • Electronic equipment, including computers and home entertainment systems

Reminders for electricians handling water damaged electrical wire and cable

Southwire provides reminders for electricians when flooding occurs. Electricians need to know that wire and cable exposed to floodwaters should be replaced to assure a safe and reliable electrical system. When wire and cable products are exposed to water or excessive moisture, the components may be damaged due to mildew or corrosion. This damage can result in insulation or termination failures. The problem can be more severe if the components have been subjected to salt water from hurricanes or other causes, or inland flooding where there may be high concentrations of chemicals, oils, fertilizers, etc.

Wire and cable that is listed for dry locations only, such as NM-B, should be replaced if it has been exposed to floodwater. NM-B cable contains paper fillers that can pull contaminated water into the cable, which can cause premature cable failure. Flood-damaged cable should be replaced to assure a safe and reliable installation.

Products listed for wet locations, such as THWN and XHHW, may be suitable for continued use if no contaminates are present in the cable. Problems could show up later because of corrosion of the conductor, which could result in overheating. If the ends of a conductor have been exposed to water, the cable may be purged to remove the water. An insulation resistance test should be conducted before the cable is energized.

All wire or cable products that have been exposed to contaminated floodwater need to be examined by a qualified person, such as an electrical contractor, to determine if the cable can be re-energized. Flood-damaged cable may not fail immediately when energized — it may take months.

After a hurricane, please contact a qualified electrical contractor for assistance in assessing flood damage. For more information on electrical safety after flood damage, you can visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International website.