Hurricane Sandy left the Shenandoah Valley wet and soggy today. She also left a lot of people without electricity. One resident had her electrical service turned off because water was running into her electrical service panel. The fire company responded to a distress call and found water running into her electrical service and shut it down. Then, they called me.
I went to see what we could do to get her back up and running. During the inspection of the problem I talked to the electrical company about turning her off at the electric pole, but they were too backed up. They gave me permission to remove the meter and see if I could find the source of the water.
I've taken hundreds of meters off in the past 40 years. So, it wasn't a concern. I took the cover off the meter-base, and then I removed the meter. There was water inside the meter-base. I took a towel and dried it out, but there was still evidence of water flowing into the meter. It's important to extraordinary careful when you've got your hands inside a hot meter. Ironically, today while standing in the rain with my hands in a hot meter I touched a hot leg and zap. It bit me.
Fortunately, I wasn't hurt. I was more frustrated than hurt, but it reminded me of something. When you're in a situation like a natural disaster, there are things you need to remember about electricity.
- If you see downed power-lines, stay away. It sounds like commonsense, but people are killed routinely by downed power-lines.
- Do not ever assume downed power-lines are dead because they are not sparking. Always assume everything is hot.
- Remember, water is a great conductor. If you have downed power-lines around your car, stay inside the car, don't touch anything metal and call 911. Do not get out of the car.
- Do not stand in water and handle something with an electrical source, such as a pump. I ran into someone doing this today.
- A wet tree can carry electricity. If there are lines in a tree, do not touch or get near the tree.
- Do not put your hands inside your electrical service panel. Call a professional. That's where my service call started today.
- Do not ever use an aluminum ladder around electrical wires. If a tree falls across your power lines leave it alone and call the fire department, 911 or your electrical provider.
People always tell me they're afraid of electricity. I'm glad to hear that. If you have any hesitation around electrical problems, call a licensed professional and stay away. Saving a few dollars are not worth your life or a substantial injury.