Holiday cooking tips
The kitchen can be a busy place during the holiday season; prepping and preparing favorite recipes (or sampling those favorite recipes). With Covid-19, dining in restaurants has become less common, causing people to spend more time in their own homes and kitchens this season than ever before.
However, whether you are a seasoned cook or novice baker, it’s important to keep electrical safety in mind. In the United States alone, approximately 1,000 deaths occur each year as a result of electrical injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health. An additional non-fatal 30,000 shock incidents occur each year. So, before you start getting your holiday casseroles ready, make sure safety is on your menu this year by using the following cooking tips:
- Always read and follow an appliance’s operating instructions.
- Always dry your hands before handling cords or plugs.
- If an unplugged appliance cord gets wet or damp, do not plug it in until it is thoroughly dry.
- Do not handle electrical cords or appliances when standing in water.
- Pull on the plug, not the cord, to disconnect an appliance from an outlet.
- To avoid damaging cords, don’t run them across walkways or underneath rugs. Draping them over walkways is also a tripping hazard.
- Regularly inspect electrical cords and plugs for damaged insulation and exposed wiring; immediately discard any damaged item. Avoid using any cord or plug that is frayed, cracked, taped or otherwise questionable.
- Do not overload extension cords, multi-pack power strips or surge protectors with too many appliances or other items or plug them into each other. Use them only as a temporary solution, and not a permanent one.
- Ensure extension cords, power strips and surge protectors are in good condition and the appropriate gauge for the job (the lower the number, the bigger the gauge and the greater the amperage and wattage).
- Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong from a plug, which is a grounding/safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock
- If you have doubts about your home’s electrical system, have a licensed electrician evaluate wiring, outlets, and switches to verify they are in working order.
- Educate yourself and everyone in your household on how to properly turn off your home’s power in case of an emergency.
Generator Safety 101
After Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana this year, over half the deaths attributed from the storm were from improper generator use. People are often unaware of the hidden dangers of portable generators. Portable generators are intended to offer convenience during outages, but should they be installed incorrectly, they can be fatal to you, the public and linemen restoring your electricity.
One significant way that generators pose a risk is through “backfeeding.” Backfeeding occurs when a generator is plugged directly into a home’s electrical panel or through a wall outlet instead of a regulated transfer switch. This practice is illegal in multiple states because it allows power to bypass the home’s built-in electrical safety features and “back-feed” into utility lines. Linemen working to restore power can be electrocuted when this happens. In this type of situation, the homeowner could be held responsible for injury and be criminally prosecuted.
To prevent backfeeding from occurring, generators must be installed correctly in one of two ways. The first is with a power transfer switch, which separates power from the utility and the whole home generator and only allows one source of power to the home. The transfer switch should always be installed by a qualified electrician. The second option is to plug in home appliances, not exceeding capacity, directly into the portable generator with heavy-duty extension cords.
Other hazards of using a portable generator include carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust and the possibility of fire, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA warns that most deaths and injuries associated with portable generators are caused by CO poisoning when generators are used indoors or in partially enclosed spaces.
Portable generators are a viable option to keep your home or appliances functioning during an outage, just make sure that the generator is installed or used correctly to keep your family, the community and lineworkers safe.
Electric shock drowning- what you need to know
In the summer, the enjoyable activities of swimming and boating can quickly become dangerous. While water-safety behaviors such as wearing life jackets and maintaining safe boating speeds have become commonplace, a serious hazard remains that is often overlooked. This silent killer, known as electric shock drowning, occurs when an electric current escapes boats, docks, electric lines or lights, shocking and paralyzing nearby swimmers making them unable to swim to safety. There are no visible signs of electrical current seeping into water, and many electric shock drowning deaths are usually recorded as drowning because victims show no signs of burns, so many instances remain undocumented.
But there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from the hidden danger of electric shock drowning and common boat electrical hazards with these handy tips from Electrical Safety Foundation International.
- Never allow anyone to swim near docks. Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat.
- Always maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines. When fishing, make sure to cast the line away from power lines.
- If you feel a tingle while swimming, the water may be electrified. Get out as soon as possible and avoid the use of metal objects such as ladders. Don’t ever go in the water to save someone who has been shocked because you could be shocked, as well. Turn off the power and then use a nonmetal object to pull the swimmer out of the water.
- Have your boat’s electrical system inspected and upgraded by a certified marine electrician who is familiar with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes 303 and NFPA 70.
- Have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) – fast-acting circuit breakers designed to shut off power when they sense an imbalance – installed on your dock, boat and outlets for lighting around pools and spas and test them once a month.
- Consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCIs) installed on boats to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into the water surrounding your boat.
- Only use shore or marine power cords, plugs, receptacles and extension cords that have been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETL).
- Never use cords that are frayed or damaged or that have had the prongs removed or altered.
- Never stand or swim in water when turning off electrical devices or switches.
- Build pools and decks at least five feet from all underground electric lines and at least 25 feet away from overhead electric lines.
- Do not put electric appliances within 10 feet of a swimming pool and use battery-operated appliances near pools if possible.
- When you get out of the water, don’t touch any electrical appliances until you are completely dry.
Protect your pet from electrical hazards
For many, pets are like members of the family, providing an indescribable companionship for owners. Two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own at least one pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey, conducted by the American Pet Products Association. Regardless of how large or small a pet may be, there are always potential electrical hazards around the corner.
Here are a few safety tips to help you protect your pets from electrical hazards throughout the house:
- Discourage pets from sleeping near or behind electronics. Many pets are attracted to the warmth, but this is a potential fire hazard.
- Make sure plugs are completely plugged into an outlet. If not plugged in correctly, curious pets can get shocked.
- Cover cords with cable jackets or PVC pipe in order to prevent pets from playing with or chewing on cords. Wind up excess cords and hide from view.
- Coat cords with a bitter substance to make them undesirable to pets. Appropriate and safe products can be purchased online or at pet stores.
- Unplug all appliances not in use to cut electric current.
- Continuously check cords for fraying or bite marks.
- Place cords out of pet’s reach, whether hanging off the floor or behind furniture.
- Provide your pet with new and different chew toys so electrical cords do not become a dangerous replacement.
- Make sure cords attached to an aquarium have a drip loop—cords that slack below the outlet—to make sure water does not run into the outlet.
- Watch your pet around dangling or sagging cords, including phone or tablet charging cables. Unplug charging cables once your devices are charged. Not only do they draw a small amount of energy when not in use, but the dangling cords are just crying to be played with.
- Don’t skimp when buying power cords, extension cords or anything else that you use for your electronics. Cheaper quality cords are much more likely to create sparks or overheat.
- Be careful where you place lamps and other plugged-in items. Lamps can be a fire hazard if they are knocked over, especially if they have halogen bulbs.
- Do not leave your pet alone around items that get hot: curling irons and straighteners, an outdoor grill, a portable heater and other electric appliances, including cooktops.
- If a pet should receive a shock, never touch the animal until you know it is away from the power source or the electric current is shut off in order to prevent injury to yourself. Once it is clear to approach the pet, give it medical treatment immediately.
Taking the time to make sure your home is safe for your pet will help ensure your friend will be around to bring happiness into your life for years to come.
Electrical safety in the workplace
Electrical safety should be treated as a priority in every workplace. Electricity is a powerful force which can seriously injure and in the worst cases, be fatal. Here are some common electrical hazards in the workplace and safety tips that can help avoid accidents:
• Be vigilant about power line locations if you are doing work outdoors, operating machinery, driving a truck that has hydraulic beds or lifts (dump truck), or arms/extensions (garbage truck, concrete truck), to name a few, and always use a spotter. Contact with a power line can kill! If your truck, tractor or equipment does come in contact with a line while you are inside it, DO NOT get out. Call 9-1-1 and wait for the power to be de-energized so you can safely exit.
• Working with portable power tools presents inherent electrical risks. Defective tools, improper connections or misuse of tools greatly increases a worker’s chance of electrical injury. Never carry a tool by the cord or yank the cord to disconnect it from the receptacle. Keep cords away from heat, oil and sharp edges and disconnect them when not in use. Use gloves and appropriate safety footwear when using electric tools. Store electric tools in a dry place when not in use and do not use them in damp or wet locations unless they’re approved for that purpose.
• Office workers can also be exposed to electrical hazards. Ungrounded equipment, overloaded circuits, defective or damaged power or extension cords, poor placement of extension cords, space heaters and exposed live parts are just a few hazards that can be found in the workplace.
• Be careful when working around water. Water and electricity don’t mix and it greatly increases the chance of shock. Keep all electrical equipment away from standing water or damp conditions (indoors or outdoors) and do not operate equipment with wet hands. Make sure any outlet that is near a water source (and all outdoor outlets) are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected.
Accidents unfortunately do occur, and they can have deadly and tragic consequences that extend far beyond the job site. A climate of safety awareness and knowledge must be created in the workplace in order to help prevent misfortunes.
Fake chargers are dangerous
Looking for a way to save money when purchasing electronics? Well, if you bought a mobile phone charger from a vendor other than a trusted third party dealer, the official Apple website or an android smartphone company, then you might have a counterfeit power adapter that does not meet minimum safety standards. Legitimate chargers cost $20 to $25 apiece while fakes can cost less than $5.
Counterfeit adapters are not designed or manufactured to meet industry safety standards, and lack the safety features necessary to protect users from shock and fire hazards. Some knockoff chargers don’t have proper insulation, potentially exposing users to overheating, fire or electric shock. Within the past few years, several incidents related to shock or electrocution (involving cell phones) have been reported.
Common problems with fakes include counterfeit plugs, non-sleeved plugs where the metal pins are exposed, live parts, two pin plugs attached and only basic insulation. While some counterfeit iPhone adapters can closely resemble the genuine product, there are often indicators that consumers can use to spot a fake, such as:
- A genuine iPhone charger comprises two products – a power adapter for the wall, plus a USB cable to connect it to your phone. Android chargers are all different but should be marked with the logo of the phone company.
- The absence of a certification mark, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) mark. This should sit between the two bottom pins on the underside of the charger. This mark can easily be forged, but there is still a difference: the text on imitations are dark gray as opposed to the light gray on real iPhone chargers.
- Check for the CE safety marking and look for the manufacturer’s brand name or logo, model and batch number.
- Legitimate chargers usually weigh more than their fake counterparts due to the higher number of components.
- USB socket may be upside down.
- The authentic iPhone charger comes with various essential instructions. These include information on electrical safety and directions on how to safely use them. If any of these are missing, then you may be dealing with a fake.
- The pins on a real charger will have a matte finish, with a consistent color and a uniform square appearance. A gloss or shiny finish, and/or irregularities in the size or shape are possible signs of a counterfeit product.
The best way to ensure you get the real deal is to buy from a reputable dealer – you may end up paying a little bit more, but you will have a peace of mind knowing it will be safe.
Holiday Cooking Safety Tips
The kitchen is the heart of the home. Sadly, it’s also where two out of every five home fires start. Many home fires occur during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year – the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years hold a tradition of cooking, and safety should always be considered in the kitchen. As we embark on the holiday season, CAEC and the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urge you to use these simple safety tips to identify and correct potential kitchen hazards:
▪ Never leave cooking equipment unattended, and always remember to turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
▪ Supervise the little ones closely in the kitchen. Make sure children stay at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
▪ Prevent potential fires by making sure your stove top and oven are clean and free of grease, dust and spilled food.
▪ Remember to clean the exhaust hood and duct over your stove on a regular basis.
▪ Keep the cooking area around the stove and oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins and potholders.
▪ Always wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire.
▪ To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
▪ Locate all appliances away from the sink.
▪ Plug countertop appliances into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.
▪ Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster.
▪ Unplug the toaster and other counter top appliances when not in use.
▪ Be sure to turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.
For more important safety tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year, visit www.esfi.org.
Safely hunting the Right of Way
Hunters have their sights on wild game when preparing for hunting season, but Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) urges hunters to take precautions and be aware of potential electrical hazards while hunting. In a state dominated by hardwood hollows and pine thickets, wildlife can often be seen along rights of way.
For landowners and their guests, this wildlife activity and low cover provide a unique and fruitful hunting experience that can be enjoyed by both seasoned and first-time hunters. But like any other hunting scenario, caution must be taken in these areas, and additional precautions are necessary when hunting near power lines.
In many cases, landowners should place hunting structures along the edge of rights of way and maintain at least 15 feet from existing structures on the cooperatives lines. On transmission rights of ways (tall high voltage lines) more distance is required and a call to the owner of the lines would ensure safe placement of structures.
To ensure the rights of way remain safe for property owners and to provide access for proper operation and maintenance of lines, the following structures, even if temporary, are prohibited and are subject to immediate removal or relocation:
- Any structure attached to a transmission tower or power pole
- A structure blocking access or located too close to facilities
- Structures underneath high-voltage lines
Note the location of power lines and other electrical equipment before you begin a hunt. Be especially careful and observant in wooded areas where power lines are easy to overlook.
Stay Safe When Using Space Heaters
With the cooler weather slipping in, we’re all looking for a way to keep warm, making space heaters popular this time of year. Unfortunately, space heaters are a common cause of house fires, resulting in more than 25,000 residential fires each year, according to The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Before you get yours plugged-in, take time to review these important safety tips.
Always read and follow the instructions for its operation and maintenance. The heater should be placed on a level, hard, nonflammable surface at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable items and in an area out of reach of children and pets or where people might trip over or bump into it.
Be sure to check the cords of older space heaters, and do not use them if they are cracked or frayed. Remember to keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas, including doorways and walkways, where they can be a tripping hazard. Also, to prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep heaters away from areas with water, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and never touch a heater if you are wet.
When buying a space heater, only consider purchasing those that are Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approved. Choose a unit that is the correct wattage for the area you want to heat with a 10-to-1 ratio of wattage to square feet. Look for a heater that has a timer or is controlled thermostatically to avoid over heating a room, as well as both a tip-over switch, which shuts off the heater if it is knocked over, and an automatic shutoff, which turns the heater off if it gets too hot.
Always remember to turn the heater off when you are not in the room, sleeping or leaving your home. Keep your family safe by following the above precautions.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Cyber criminals are out there, and they’re after your information. That’s why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM).
The goal of NCSAM is to provide every American with the resources they need to enhance their online safety and security. Let’s face it: In today’s world, the cybersecurity threats facing our nation can seem overwhelming – and downright scary. Cybersecurity, specifically the protection and security of consumer-members’ assets and the nation’s complex, interconnected network of power plants, transmission lines and distribution facilities is a top priority for electric cooperatives and other segments of the electric power industry.
We all have a role to play in ensuring the security of your personal and professional data. Use the tips below to safeguard your computer:
- Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, tablets and smartphones – up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
- Create long passwords that only you will remember, and change them every six months. Remember, a strong password is at least 12 characters long.
- Avoid the use of thumb drives and other portable memory devices.
- Don’t click on weblinks or attached files in emails when you’re not certain of who the sender is.
- Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information. Share security tips with friends, family and colleagues, and encourage them to be web wise.
We hope you will join us in raising cybersecurity awareness. Use and follow #cyberaware on social media to show and share your support. To learn more about NCSAM, visit www.staysafeonline.org.
Halloween Electrical Safety
As consumers and families across America prepare to celebrate Halloween with elaborate decorations, creative costumes, and candlelight displays, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends following important safety tips to keep families and homes safe.
- Choose decorations, costumes, and accessories that are made with flame resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
- Use flashlights or battery operated candles instead of candles when decorating the home, including to light walkways, jack-o-lanterns,and outdoor displays.
- Carefully inspect each decoration before use. Cracked, frayed, or bare wires may cause a serious electric shock or start a fire.
- Before using any electrical products outside, make sure they are marked “for outdoor use.”
- Keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas, including doorways and walkways, where they can be a tripping hazard.
- Plug outdoor decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to prevent electric shock.
- Never nail or staple light strings or extension cords. This can damage the cord’s insulation and create a serious fire and shock hazard.
- Use electrical lights and decorations that are approved for safe use by an independent testing laboratory such as UL, ETLSEMKO or CSA.
- Always turn off all electrical decorations and extinguish any open flames before leaving home or going to bed.
Taking the Ouch out of Outlet Safety
Hairpins are perfect for holding certain hair styles in place, but these slender, metal objects are also easy for children to manipulate, making them the dominant household item improperly stuck into electrical receptacles. Each year, approximately 2,400 children – an average of seven a day – receive emergency room treatment for injuries caused by inserting conductive material into electrical outlets, according to a 10-year report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). And nationwide, there are approximately 5,000 residential fires reported as attributed to receptacle failure. To help prevent many of these dangers, here are some safety precautions for electrical outlets.
- Replace receptacles that are broken, no longer hold a plug securely, feel hot to the touch, spark or make noise when inserting or removing a plug.
- All outlets should have a faceplate to prevent accidentally touching a plug to a live portion of the receptacle.
- Never alter a polarized plug to make it fit into an old unpolarized receptacle. A polarized plug has one blade wider than the other and can only be inserted one way into the electrical outlet.
- All unused outlets should be covered with safety covers, especially to prevent children and pet access. Also, the covers prevent dust and static electricity.
- If plugs seem to fit loosely in a particular outlet, the outlet may be worn and could overheat; a qualified electrician should check it.
- All outside receptacles where water and electricity may come into contact should be protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs are electrical devices designed to detect ground faults. Ground faults occur when electrical current is “leaking” somewhere outside the path where the current is supposed to flow. If your body provides the path to ground for this leakage, you could be burned, shocked or even electrocuted. GFCIs can switch a circuit off before injury occurs.
- Outdoor receptacles should also have weatherproof covers to help protect against shock hazards. Close the covers on all unused outdoor receptacles.
- Avoid overloading a receptacle – fires can occur when wires become hot.
- If you need receptacles replaced, contact a licensed electrician to install them and consider the new tamper-resistant (TR) option. These types of outlets include a shutter mechanism to protect against harm from inserting foreign objects. The spring-loaded system only allows electricity to flow when you apply equal pressure to both sides of the outlet, as when you plug in an electrical device. During unused conditions, both shutters are closed. Tamper-resistant receptacles are an important step to make the home a safer place for children. The cost is as little as $2 at some retailers and can easily be incorporated into older homes.
Practicing electrical outlet safety in your home will keep you and your family safe from fire and shock hazards.