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Flooded Appliances, Wiring Dangerous

Before entering a building that has been flooded, such as a house, garage, barn or shop supplied with electricity, make sure the electricity has been shut off to any portion of the electrical system that may have been submerged in floodwaters.

“Electrical wiring and electrical system equipment that have been exposed to floodwaters can be extremely dangerous without being examined and repaired or replaced,” says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service flood expert. “Floodwaters can cause corrosion, and sediment or other contaminants can lodge in the equipment. Damage to wiring or fixtures may not be readily apparent.”

A building’s electricity typically is shut off with an external disconnection. Frequently, the power supplier will disconnect the electricity.

If you need electrical power, a licensed electrician can install a temporary electrical panel or you can use a generator. The electrical system should be checked and certified by an electrician or electrical inspector to make sure the system is safe before the electricity is turned on.

When running electrical appliances such as power washers, vacuums and other cleaning equipment, use an extension cord with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or install a GFCI in the electrical circuit.

If a home’s fuse or circuit breaker panel has been exposed to floodwaters, it should be disconnected immediately because this poses a serious risk of electrical shock or fire. Ask your power supplier to disconnect your power.

All breaker panel boards, breakers, fuses, disconnect switches, controllers, receptacle outlets, switches, light fixtures and electrical heaters that have been exposed to floodwaters must be replaced. Electrical wiring needs to be replaced unless it is listed for use in wet locations. Splices and terminations must be checked to make sure they comply with the National Electrical Code.

 

You can do your own electrical work if you are competent with electrical wiring and know current code. But before you do any work, you must contact your local electrical inspector and get approval for the work you plan to do. Once you are done, the inspector will check the wiring to ensure the work meets code.

 

”If you are unsure about what to do or don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself, hire an electrician,” NDSU Extension energy educator Carl Pedersen advises.

 

Household appliances such as dishwashers, clothes washers, ovens and ranges that have been exposed to floodwaters should be replaced or reconditioned by an approved manufacturer’s representative before they’re used. Moisture and floodwater contaminants can damage the appliance and can cause a fire or electrical shock.

 

Refrigerators and freezers with foam insulation and sealed components may have little water damage if the motor or electronics were not in water, but since they hold food, they should be cleaned and disinfected. If the motor or electronics were submerged, the appliance should be reconditioned before being used.

“Get cost estimates on reconditioning appliances because replacing them may cost less,” Pedersen says.

To clean appliance surfaces, use a heavy-duty cleaner and hot water, then a bleach solution.

 

For more information, view a video at www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood/home/cleaning-up-your-home-after-flooding-video or go to www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood or www.extension.org/Floods.

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