Storms and Safety
Safety is the No. 1 priority at Tampa Electric. Around electrical infrastructure of all kinds, our message to you is simple: for your own safety, never touch power lines, climb on power poles, play on transformers, or tamper with equipment in any other way. If you see what looks like trouble with electrical equipment – a downed power line, tree branches growing into wires, an open transformer or something like that – or when in doubt, keep your distance and let us know right away.
Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Read more on this factsheet on home electrical fire prevention.
- Don't run electrical cords underneath rugs, carpets or furniture. Stepping on cords can damage them, creating a fire hazard.
- Make sure your electric blanket is in good condition. Look for cracks or breaks in the wiring, plugs or connectors and look for charred spots on both sides of the blanket surfaces. Any of these conditions indicates a potential fire hazard.
- To prevent excessive heat buildup, make sure nothing covers your electric blanket, such as quilts, blankets or pets. Never "tuck in" the sides or ends of your electric blanket. The heating coils may become damaged or bent and may cause a fire.
- Sleeping on a heating pad or electric sheet may cause serious burns even at relatively low settings.
- Fuses and circuit breakers are safety devices located on your electrical panel. Use the correct size fuse for your fuse box. Replacing a fuse with the wrong size fuse can be a fire hazard.
- Appliances, such as a hair dryer, curling iron or toaster, can be potentially hazardous if left plugged in, especially during an electrical storm.
- Electricity and water don't mix. Keep all electrical products and cords, such as radio, TV, hairdryer or curling iron, away from water, including sinks and tubs.
- Never reach into water to get an appliance that has fallen in without first unplugging the appliance.
- Unplug your toaster or toaster oven before using a knife or fork to remove stuck bread or bagels.
- To avoid electric shock during a lightning storm, unplug appliances before the storm hits, and avoid using a phone or fax machine. Remember to unplug unnecessary electrical products when they are not in use.
Remember these tips for a safer home. Take time to walk through your house and look for potential problems.
- If plugs seem to fit loosely into a wall outlet, the wall outlet needs repair. A loose fitting wall outlet may cause overheating. Have an electrician check the outlet.
- Use only extension cords that have been listed by a recognized certification organization.
- Make sure cords are in good condition - not frayed or cracked. Make sure they are placed out of traffic areas. Cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard or to another object and they should not have any furniture resting on them.
- Check to see that extension cords are not overheated. Additionally, extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not safe as permanent household wiring.
- Make sure the proper-type plug is in each outlet. If you are using three-prong plugs in a room with two-conductor outlets, do not cut off the ground pin (the third/bottom prong) from the plug; this could lead to an electrical shock hazard. A better solution is to use a two-prong adapter. NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN'T FIT. This could lead to fire or shock. Plugs should fit securely into outlets, and outlets should not be overloaded.
- Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) can prevent many electrocutions. GFCIs are devices installed in kitchen and bathroom outlets. They should be used in any area where water and electricity may come into contact. Test GFCIs regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions to make sure they are working properly. Need to install a GFCI? Contact a licensed electrician for professional installation.
- Check the wattage of all light bulbs in lighting fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you don't know the correct wattage, check with the manufacturer of the fixture. Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely; loose bulbs may overheat.
- Circuit breakers should be the correct sizes for the circuits. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the sizes to be used. Never replace a breaker with anything but another correct size breaker.
- If one appliance repeatedly blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, or if it has emitted an electric shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
- Water and electricity don't mix. Don't place any electrical appliances near water, i.e., a sink or a bathtub. Appliances that are used near water should be unplugged when not in use. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, unplug it and don't use it until it's been checked by a qualified repair person.
- Check to see that all entertainment/computer equipment is in good condition and working properly; look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs and connectors.
- Don't leave your space heater on all night. The fire hazard is too great. Use extra blankets instead.
- Keep your space heater away from drapes, furniture and other flammable materials.
- If you use an extension cord, be sure it's heavy duty and in good condition. And, make sure the cord is rated to handle the power your space heater requires. Don't use household-type extension cords with your space heaters.
- Be certain your home wiring is designed to handle your space heater. If you have any doubts, contact a licensed electrician.
- Avoid using your space heater in the bathroom. If you must, keep it as far away as possible from the shower, tub and sink. And never touch the heater when you're around water!
- Make sure your space heater has an automatic switch that turns off the electric current if the unit is tipped over.
- Make sure the heater has a 3-prong grounded plug and used in a 3-hole wall outlet.
Follow these safety tips when you're working outside and around your home. Don't forget to call before you dig to avoid cutting utility lines.
- Never remove the third prong of a three-pronged plug. It can protect you from electrical shock. Instead, convert two-pronged outlets to fit three-pronged plugs using an adapter with a ground tab.
- Turn off electrical products if a cord overheats.
- Use only weather-resistant heavy gauge extension cords marked "For Outdoor Use."
- Be sure amperage ratings for outdoor extension cords are higher than those electrical products they are used with. Check owners manuals and electrical labels.
- Outdoor electrical products should be:
- plugged in and turned on only when in use
- never left unattended outdoors
- turned off when being carried or being hooked up to attachments like mower baskets or saw blades.
- Never remove safety guards from lawnmowers, power tools, etc.
- Unless you are a qualified electrician, never try to repair electrical products yourself.
- Use safety goggles when operating lawn equipment and wear special safety gear suggested in power tool manuals.
- Clean up the area before mowing the lawn or using electrical clippers or trimmers.
- Keep cords out of your path or work area. Throwing the cord over your shoulder may help.
- Keep outdoor outlets and electrical products covered and dry between uses.
- Select a dry day to power up outdoors.
- If an electrical tool falls into a pool or pond, unplug it first. Do not reach into the water for it.
- Put a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) between your electric power source and your electric tool. In a mishap, a GFCI can cut off power in less than a second. A GFCI is an electrical device that can protect you from electrical shock and may prevent fires. They should be installed in kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor receptacles. You may have a GFCI built into your outdoor outlets. Or they may be in your mower, trimmer or drill. (Check your owner's manual.)
- No GFCI? Contact a licensed electrician for professional installation.
It's easy to get caught up in the holiday rush. It's also easy to forget to put safety on your list of things to remember. At Tampa Electric, where safety is a top priority, we offer these tips to follow in and around your home:
- Make sure your holiday lights and cords are in good condition (no broken lights or frayed cords).
- Never string holiday lights on or near power lines.
- Never use indoor lights outside.
- Be sure to turn all holiday lights off before going to bed or leaving home.
- Never place electric cords under a rug or door, or around a sharp edge or corner.
- Don't overload electrical outlets.
- Make sure a reliable testing laboratory, like the Underwriter's Laboratory, has inspected your holiday wiring.
- Keep all cords away from "traffic lanes" in your home.
- Be sure to unplug children's electric toys when not in use.
- If you have a natural Christmas tree, make sure it has enough water to keep branches from drying out, which can pose a fire hazard.