March 24, 2002
ESFI Warn Flood Victims About the
Dangers of Mixing Water and Electricity
As the mountain snow melt begins and flood season approaches, the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Electrical Safety
Foundation International (ESFI) are warning consumers to beware of the
dangers that are present when water comes in contact with electricity. A
flood can cause tragic losses to families, but to protect against the
unexpected loss of life, CPSC and ESFI have some important safety advice:
Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the
motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators,
washing machines, and dryers.
If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and
reconditioned by a qualified service repairman. Do not turn on damaged
electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded and
pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.
Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician
check the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use.
Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions
and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install
and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
Electric circuit breakers and fuses can malfunction when water and silt get
inside. Discard all circuit breakers, fuses, and GFCIs that have been
When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer be sure to follow
the manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.
Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or
bypass the ground pin on the three-prong plug.
"As families begin to clean up following a flood, there are hidden
electrical hazards throughout the home," says Michael Clendenin, executive
director of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). "Take the
time to protect your family and home by making a new beginning that includes
finding and fixing all electrical dangers caused by a flood."
"After the flood waters have receded, CPSC wants families to be aware that
electricity has the potential to cause an even greater loss than that of
personal property," says Thomas Moore, CPSC Acting Chairman. "We hope that
this information helps prevent deaths and injuries during these difficult
For people who live in counties already declared eligible, you can contact
the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program
at (800) 427-4661.
These and other electrical safety tips are available at the Foundation's Web
site at www.electrical-safety.org or call (703) 841-3229.