Electrical Safety During Storms and Flooding: What To Do Before, During and After
Storms, floods, cyclones, and unpredictable weather can lead to property damage, serious injury, and in some cases, death. Storms and flooding can have major impacts on the electricity network, so it's important that you are prepared for storms and flooding, and follow these tips to make sure you, your home, or your business are electrically safe.
Prepare your property for storms or floods
Before a storm or flood, or in the lead up to wet season, follow these tips to prepare your home or business:
If you’re in a flood-prone location, consider relocating your switchboard and any wiring in your home that may be below previous flood levels.
Where possible, move any electrical equipment to higher ground or pack up electrical equipment that's not in use and store it in a safe place.
Turn off and unplug any electrical appliances that may become inundated with water.
Install a safety switch and test it regularly.
Know where to turn off your power, gas and water supply in an emergency.
Unplug outside TVs and non-fixed aerials and store in a dry area.
Switch off and unplug electrical equipment when a storm approaches.
Shut down your solar PV system using the safe isolation procedure.
During a storm or flood
Follow these simple tips to keep you and your property safe during a storm or flood:
Listen to your local radio station for weather updates.
Turn off your power points and unplug electrical equipment if you’ve lost power.
Don't use a fixed telephone during a thunderstorm – you can get an electric shock.
Move electrical equipment to higher locations if floodwaters are expected.
Stay away from powerlines, trees and watercourses.
If moving around your area in boats, be aware of reduced powerline height clearances as floodwaters will make you closer to the powerlines and power poles can also move from the force of floodwaters.
Warn children not to swim in floodwaters.
Clean-up after a storm or flood
It's important to clean-up safely after a storm.
Listen to your local radio station for further warnings and advice.
Report fallen, low or damaged powerlines to the emergency services or your local electricity distribution entity and stay away from them.
Stay away from electrical signs, street lights, electrical cables, foil insulation or other conductive material that may be lying around your house.
Stay away and don’t touch switchboards if they are damaged by water, fire or if lightning is close, and warn others to do the same.
Don’t do your own electrical work - it's illegal and dangerous. Always use a licensed electrician, you can check your electrician is licensed using the Service NSW Public Register.
If you have a solar power generating system, avoid getting on the roof unless absolutely necessary and keep away from solar panels and their cables.
If there’s asbestos – make sure you know how to clean it up safely.
Unplug all electrical appliances affected by water and have them inspected by a licensed electrical contractor (try Master Electricians) before use.
Do not operate electrical appliances or switches while standing in water or bare feet.
Have a licensed electrical contractor check or isolate any parts of your electrical installation that have been affected by water – especially if the switchboard has been submerged or if your safety switch has tripped.
Take extra care around your switchboard. If it’s outdoors, wear synthetic or rubber-soled shoes. If you are in any doubt about your switchboard’s safety, stay clear and call your licensed electrical contractor.
Property or connection damage
If your property or connecting line has been damaged by a storm or flood, you may need verification tests on your switchboard, wiring, equipment and appliances to be carried out prior to reconnection to ensure the electrical circuits are still working.
A licensed electrician will need to perform this task and a certificate of test will ensure your local electricity distribution entity can reconnect your service.
New South Wales Emergency Management has more information about storm safety and actions to take before, during and after a storm.
Solar PV systems
If your solar PV system has been damaged, get a licensed electrician to inspect it, make any repairs and check it’s electrically safe before it is re-commissioned. This check needs to be done before other clean-up work starts around the PV cells and associated electrical wiring.
Even if the network supply is turned off, PV systems will continue producing voltages during the day, so the PV cells and associated wiring will be still live.
During a clean up:
Do not attempt to turn off the system after a storm/flood/cyclone.
Stay away from the solar panels and wiring.
Have an electrician check the system.
If your system has been checked and is safe, follow the start-up procedure.
While the sun is out, your solar PV system is generating electricity. Always treat the system and associated wires as live.
Electrical appliances and equipment
Using water-damaged equipment can cause electric shocks and fires so make sure you:
Dispose of or have a licensed electrician repair water-affected electrical items, such as kettles, toasters and televisions.
Have a licensed electrician check all water-damaged hard-wired electrical appliances, such as air-conditioning units or stoves, intended for re-use. This safety check may be required before the power supply can be reconnected.
Power from generators can be dangerous, so make sure you:
Connect your generator to your house electrical wiring using a generator change-over switch and appropriate socket. These switches must be installed by a licensed electrician. Never power your house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This is extremely dangerous and is an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbours served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses built-in household circuit protection devices.
Do not connect your generator to your house using a powerpoint on a power circuit or any other connection point. This can cause dangerous 'back-feeding'.
Ensure all leads used to connect your generator are in good working order. Use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord that:
Is rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads
Is free of cuts or tears
Has all three prongs, especially an earthing pin.
Use power boards with an overload cut-out switch.
Keep the generator outside. Never use it indoors. Run the generator outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
Do not exceed the generator's load rating, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm.
Keep the generator dry. Do not use in rain or wet conditions. Protect from moisture by operating on a dry surface and under shelter.
Make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator.
IMPORTANT: Please remember to follow instructions and evacuation notices given by emergency services and use equipment within the specified parameters of its design.
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If you have any questions about electrical safety during a storm or flooding, feel free to contact us at 1300 698 324. We are more than happy to answer your questions and help ensure your safety.
For more information on electrical safety and storms in your area, contact your local distribution entity. These resources may also help: