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Electricity is all around us. We use it every day to do the things we love, like read our books past our bedtime, host family dinners, binge-watch our favorite shows and connect with friends on social media.

However, because we’ve become so used to living with electricity, we may forget about the potential safety hazards it generates. Electricity is delivered to us through equipment most of us see every day. This may be the power lines that hang above us, the outlets in our homes or the utility boxes that sit in our backyards. When we think about how powerful electricity is, we can only imagine the serious safety hazards that can occur if we aren’t careful around these types of equipment.

In honor of National Electrical Safety Month in May, now is a good time to learn about the important safety practices on how to act around common electrical equipment to avoid hazards.

Outdoor electrical safety

Power lines

Power lines stretch across our neighborhoods, carrying electricity from power plants and substations to businesses and residents. They play an integral part in providing the power we need for our daily lives. However, transmitting high amounts of electricity gives them the ability to do significant damage. To keep you and your family stay safe, make sure to:

  • Always stay at least 20 feet away from power lines at all times
  • Never use a metal ladder when working anywhere near power lines. Metal is conductive and can seriously shock or electrocute you if it comes in contact with electricity
  • Avoid carrying tools, and things like rakes and pool skimmers, above your head when near power lines. It’s easy for them to get tangled and cause harm to the wire, or even worse, yourself
  • Find out where power lines and other utilities are buried before you install a fence, deck, mailbox, lamppost or any other outdoor home improvement project. A simple phone call to MISS Dig at 8-1-1 is all it takes.
  • Teach your children not to climb trees, fly kites or play with any other toys near power lines

If you do come across a downed power line, stay at least 20 feet away from it and anything it’s in contact with. Treat every power line as if it were energized. Heed the warning of yellow caution tape, which indicates there’s a downed power line in the area. DO NOT CROSS YELLOW CAUTION TAPE. Never drive across a downed power line and if one falls on your vehicle, stay inside until help arrives. One of the best things to do when you see a downed power line is to report it immediately at outage.dteenergy.com, through the DTE mobile app or call 800.477.4747. Don’t wait and assume someone already has already reported it. 

Metal utility boxes

When planting flowers, or doing other yard/gardening work, make sure you leave eight feet of clearance in front and two feet on all other sides from the green or gray metal box commonly found in front, side, or back yards. The box is used for underground wiring and should not be sat on, tinkered with or touched.

Tree Planting or Trimming

If you’re thinking about planting a new tree, please reference our Right Tree, Right Place guide to help you make the safest decision for yourself and our power lines. If you’re trees need trimming, we strongly recommend contacting a professional tree-trimming service to complete the work. Overhead power lines that run near trees carry high-voltage electricity that can seriously or fatally injure you.

Indoor Electrical Safety

Plugs, Cords, and Fuses

It’s important not to overload the plugs and fuses in your home, and regularly check to make sure cords aren’t damaged or frayed. Both can become electric fire hazards if not routinely checked. A few other tips include:

  • Only plugs or plug guards should be placed in any outlet. Be sure outlets near wet areas of the house, like the kitchen, bath and laundry room, have GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) to prevent serious shock injuries
  • To prevent damage to cords, pull by the plug, not the cord when unplugging an appliance or tool
  • Never use anything other than a fuse to replace a fuse. Make sure the replacement fuse is the correct amperage
  • Always unplug an appliance or tool before cleaning, adjusting or repairing it

Electrical Shock or Fire

Avoiding electrical shocks, or fires, starts with knowing how to reduce their risks of happening.

  • Never mix electricity and water. Never step into a flooded area if water is in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or cords. Don’t use electrical appliances or touch circuit breakers or fuses when you’re wet or standing in water
  • Limit the number of appliances plugged into each outlet. Don’t exceed the recommended wattage when replacing bulbs in lamps, light fixtures or holiday lighting

If you do find yourself dealing with an unfortunate electrical shock or fire situation, try to remember to:

  • Never touch a person who is being shocked. If you can do it safely, unplug the appliance or turn off the power. Call for medical help immediately and begin CPR after the victim is cleared from contact
  • Never throw water on an electrical fire. If you can do it safely, turn off the power or unplug the appliance

Keep these life-saving tips in mind and share them with those around you to stay safe and prepared.