Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association reminds residents to be mindful of potential electrical hazards during spring flooding.
First, Red River Valley Co-op Power wants members to know crews will not shut off power to any member unless:
- The member or emergency officials request it, and only if crews can do so safely.
- There is a safety concern.
- The home is flooded beyond habitation.
If your home or shop does flood, contact your electric utility so they can disconnect power from the transformer feeding your service if necessary. Stay away from any electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water. Do not attempt to disconnect your own power, or work on energized equipment once it has been flood damaged or exposed to flood waters. Do not attempt to operate breakers or switches that are wet or under water.
Likewise, if service to a home is not disconnected and the home does take in water, do not enter the home until power can be disconnected and water drained. In the event that severe flooding causes power outages due to downed poles, stay away from all downed power lines and promptly report them to your electrical utility.
Also, remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safely operating your generator. Since sump pumps are in or near water, it is good to have a ground fault interrupter outlet to connect the sump pump outlet to. Here are some safety tips from Safe Electricity, a program of the Energy Education Council, to keep in mind:
Safety tips for standing water
- Never step into a flooded basement or other room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Be alert to any electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water.
- Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. Call your electric utility as previously mentioned.
- Never use electric appliances or touch electric wires, switches or fuses when you’re wet or standing in water.
- Keep electric tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from wet surfaces. Do not use electric yard tools if it’s raining or the ground is wet.
- If an appliance has been in contact with water, have a professional check it before using.
In the event of an outage, Red River Valley Co-op Power’s goal is to restore service to the greatest number of members possible in the shortest amount of time. Line crews begin at substations and work their way out to individual services. Dangerous situations, like downed power lines, are repaired as soon as possible. Working on outages this way is the most efficient and quickest way to restore power.
Standby and portable generators
Many residents use standby generators for extended outages and to operate sump pumps. Proper use of a standby or portable generator is a must! A standby generator installation must have an approved double-throw transfer switch for two reasons:
- So it does not allow electricity from the generator to flow back into the power lines. Without this 120/240-volt electricity may feed back to your transformer where it would be stepped up to 7,200 volts. This would put crews and anyone who assumes the line is de-energized in danger.
- It protects your generator from damage when power is restored.
- Always follow manufacturer’s instructions and contact a licensed electrician.
- Under no circumstances should portable generators be used indoors even with ventilation. The primary hazards are carbon monoxide, toxic fumes, electric shock or fire.
- Always follow the directions supplied with the generator.
- Plug appliances directly into generator or use a properly rated outdoor extension cord.
- Never try powering the house by plugging the generator into a wall outlet; known as backfeeding. This is extremely dangerous and puts lives at risk.
Reconnecting service and inspection
If your home did flood and/or Red River Valley Co-op Power was called to disconnect power at the meter, you must provide us with an affidavit from your electrician and the electrical inspector must physically inspect the wiring for power to be turned back on. This ensures the home has been inspected for safety.
- Also, all electric equipment including appliances, wiring and outlets that were submerged in water should not be used, and must be replaced per the National Electric Code. The high water mark from flooding is usually self-evident.
- Any time you or an electrician does wiring or other electrical work at your home or farm, remember Minnesota law requires a state wiring inspector to conduct a proper inspection of the work. More information on inspection and wiring regulations can be found at www.electricity.state.mn.us. To find a list of state electrical inspectors for this area, click on Safety. To view the top ten things you need to know about flood-damaged electrical systems per Minnesota, visit www.dli.mn.gov/ccld/electricalnotices.asp.