Electrical Safety

Basics

Each year, 400 people are electrocuted in their home or yard.

  • Electricity looks for the quickest path to ground. On its journey to the ground, electricity travels through conductors. Good conductors include water, metals, and people. Human beings are good conductors simply because about 70% of the body is composed of water.When electricity travels through the body, it can overload the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Electric burns can cause serious injury or death. Electrical safety is something we should not take for granted.

How does the electricity in my home work?

  • Interactive Electrical Safety – In and Around Your Home
  • Electricity enters your home through a service entrance from a series of outdoor power lines or an underground connection. A typical service entrance consists of two 120-volt wires and one neutral wire that deliver power to lights and appliances in your home.
  • The electric meter is mounted outdoors where electricity enters your home. This meter is used to measure the amount of electricity that is used. The meter is monitored by MVEA and is protected by law! Tampering with the electric meter is extremely dangerous and illegal!
  • The service panel is the central distribution point for delivering electricity to switches, outlets, and appliances throughout your house. The service panel is equipped with a breaker that shuts off power to the circuits if an electrical system failure occurs.
  • Grounding is the method used to connect an electrical system to the earth with a wire. Grounding adds critical protection against electric shock and electrocution by using a grounding rod to provide a third path for conducting electricity in the event of a short circuit or an overload. Grounding will help protect the person working on the system, the system itself, and any appliances and equipment that are connected to the system. (“Electrical Safety Workbook, A guide to understanding and maintaining your home’s electrical system,” A publication presented by the Electrical Safety Foundation International, pp.4, http://esfi.org/index.cfm/page/Electrical-Safety-Workbook/cdid/10792/pid/10272)

Home

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 40,000 residential fires claim more than 350 lives annually. Electrical fires are most often attributed to problems with electric cords and plugs, lamps and light fixtures, and switches and outlets.

  • Water and electricity can be shocking. Water can carry electricity, so keep electric appliances and cords away from water. Make sure your hands are dry before you touch anything electrical-even if you think it is turned off.
  • Don’t overload outlets. Do not place too many plugs in an outlet. When younger children are in your home, make sure all unused outlets have safety caps. Do not put anything in electric outlets except safety caps or plugs.
  • Check your cords for safety. If you find a damaged cord, replace or have it repaired. Never put extension cords under rugs and keep them away from water, heat and metal pipes. Pull on the plug, not the cord, when you disconnect.

Storm Safety

It’s hard to predict the weather, but it’s easy to prepare for it. Here’s how to plan ahead for unavoidable power outages that can accompany storms.

  • Listen to weather forecasts every day so you’ll know when high winds or heavy snows or ice are on the way. That kind of weather is most likely to affect power lines.
  • Prepare an outage kit that contains: a battery-powered radio, fresh batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches, a wind-up clock, bottled water, paper plates and plastic utensils.
  • Keep a stock of canned food in your cupboard along with a manual can opener. Consider buying a camp stove and fuel that you can use (outdoors only) if you can’t cook on your electric stove.
  • Tape MVEA’s phone number on your refrigerator so it will be handy if you must report an outage. Do not take it for granted that your neighbor has made the call. Your cordless phones will not work, so have a traditional phone that you can use.
  • Dress in layers to stay warm during a winter outage.
  • If you’re caught in a lightning storm, get out of the water and stay away from trees. Go indoors and keep clear of windows. Turn off TV and other appliances.
  • Teach children to stay away from fallen or sagging power lines. They could be energized and dangerous, even if the power is out.

Our hope is that the weather will spare us; however, if we do have outages, we will restore your service as quickly as possible. We also strive to keep our website up to date on the outage situation so be sure to check it (if possible) for outage information.

Farm

One of the most overlooked hazards on today’s farms is the risk of electrocution. MVEA urges farm workers to be especially aware of the dangers of using farm equipment near power lines.

  • Make sure that you, your family and any farm workers know the location of all overhead power lines. Map out and discuss ways to avoid them when moving equipment.
  • Know the height of all farm equipment and of nearby power lines. Never move equipment under a line if you are unsure of the clearance.
  • Avoid moving large machinery alone. Enlist someone to monitor you as you drive to prevent contact with overhead lines.
  • Take caution when lifting or moving irrigation pipe. The combination of metal irrigation pipe and high voltage electricity can be deadly.
  • Periodically check grounding rods and wires around buildings and power poles. These rods and wires can become damaged and broken. If damaged, the overall system will not provide adequate grounding protection.

Overhead & Underground Lines

Downed power lines-always assume they are energized!

Safety outside of your home may be as simple as understanding where some likely dangers exist. Here are a few of the most dangerous and easily preventable scenarios:

  • Wires 
    Always assume that utility lines are “live” – or energized – and keep far away from them. Be especially attentive after wind, ice, or heavy snow storms when wires may have fallen to the ground. If a power line hits your car, drive slowly away from the line if you can do so safely. If not, stay inside and wait for rescue workers. If you must get out because of fire or other danger, jump clear without touching metal and ground at the same time. Shuffle away keeping both feet on the ground.
  • Climbing/Playing on Electrical Equipment 
    Never let children climb a utility pole, a tower, or a tree near power lines. Kites or balloons that contact power lines can cause shock or fire, so fly them away from overhead lines. Don’t let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. NEVER play on, sit on, or climb on electrical equipment of any kind. Pad-mounted transformers are for underground wiring. The transformers are inside sturdy metal cabinets, which are locked for safety. Never pry them open. If you find an unlocked door, call MVEA.
  • Ladders
    Look up first! Ladders, regardless of what they’re made of, can become electrified if brought into contact with overhead electric wires. Wooden and metal ladders can conduct electricity. Keep this in mind and use extra caution when you, or your contractor, are using a ladder while working outside around your home.
  • Digging 
    Colorado law requires underground utilities to be located BEFORE anyone digs. Whether you are a contractor working on a site or a homeowner working around your own home, please note: digging can be dangerous if you don’t check first for underground wiring, cable or other underground utilities such as natural gas lines, water, or sewer lines. Contact the Utility Notification Center of Colorado www.uncc.org at 811 at least three days before you plan to dig and they will locate all underground utilities on your property at no cost to you.
  • Power Tools 
    Don’t use outdoor power tools – electric drill, hedge clipper, sander, electric mower – in the rain or while working with or on wet surfaces. Consider installing a ground fault interrupter on outside outlets.
  • Tree Work 
    Electric wires may be concealed in the trees or shrubs you want to trim. Before you trim trees or shrubs, inspect the area carefully to ensure that it’s clear of wires. MVEA has the right, within public or private rights-of-way and easements, to trim trees and otherwise remove obstructions that are in violation of National Electrical Safety Code requirements, or that may prohibit safe, efficient operation, or restrict safe access to electrical facilities. Trees are routinely trimmed around MVEA overhead electric distribution lines. Please contact MVEA if you notice a tree which may be creating an electrical hazard. Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place Safety Sheet (PDF)
  • Swimming Pools 
    Be sure electrical equipment for your swimming pool is grounded properly. If you’re installing a pool, have it inspected by your town’s electrical inspector when the job is completed. A ground fault interrupter should be installed on your pool’s electrical equipment. If a fault occurs in the equipment, the interrupter will instantly cut the power, preventing a serious electric shock. Do not have any plug-in appliances near the pool.
  • Kites 
    Never construct a kite from wire or metal; always use paper or wood. That goes for the tail, too; it should only be made of dry string or cloth. Check your string or cord to make certain that it does not contain wire or carbon filament that is conductive. ALWAYS keep your kite away from electric power lines and choose a clear, dry day for kite flying. If your kite should get snagged in power lines or in a tree in which lines might be concealed, don’t try to free it yourself. Contact MVEA or seek help from your local authorities.
  • Antennas & Satellite Dishes 
    Before you work on a rooftop television or citizens band radio antenna or install a satellite dish, be sure the area is clear of power lines. Install these devices where they won’t touch or fall on electric lines.
  • Generators 
    Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. View the portable generator safety sheet to learn how to use generators safely.

Pole Inspections

MVEA’s contractor inspect poles in our territory. Generally, they will wear company hats and have sign on their vehicle. They also carry an I.D Badge. If you have any questions, call MVEA.

Safety Presentations

  • Safety is our first priority at MVEA. We provide, at no cost, safety demonstrations to schools and local organizations to raise awareness of the dangers of electricity. Using a variety of different scenarios, our special demonstration teaches the dangers of electricity and how to deal with special situations when electricity is involved. Visit our safety demonstrations page for more information.
  • If your school or organization is interested in an electric safety demonstration, or you would like literature on electric safety, call MVEA or e-mail us.