Safety Tips

  • 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 lighting safety tips

    We all want our homes to be merry and bright with the holidays right around the corner, but are you doing everything you can to be safe when putting up your lights? When decorating your home for the holiday season, take a look at the following safety tips:

    1. Consider purchasing LED holiday lights; they are cool to the touch and more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.
    2. Test holiday lights by connecting each strand before hanging them.
    3. Make sure there are no broken bulbs or damaged or grayed cords. Discard any defective strands.
    4. Use holiday lights that include the Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) label.
    5. Avoid resting bulbs on tree needles and branches. Try using a clip to keep the bulbs upright.
    6. Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
    7. Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Make sure safety is on the menu this year

    The holiday season is in full swing, which means many of us will find ourselves in the kitchen prepping for upcoming celebrations. In the associated rush of gearing up for holiday get-togethers, cooking safety can sometimes be put on the backburner, no pun intended.

    Inattention and electrical appliances don’t mix well, which is why it’s important to keep your focus on the delicious dishes you are preparing. While it might seem like a good way to kill two birds with one stone by starting a dish on the stovetop or in the toaster oven then moving on to other tasks, reports from the National Fire Prevention Association state that unattended equipment is cited as the leading cause for 32 percent of home cooking fires.

    When frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food, always remain in the kitchen, and keep anything flammable – oven mitts, food wrappers, towels or wooden utensils – away from the stovetop or cooking surface. Another aspect of cooking safety that’s often overlooked is the condition of the appliances being used. Check that they are still in good working condition, and never use an appliance that’s in obvious disrepair or one that’s already had an over-extended cooking career.

    Ask yourself just how many Christmases has that crockpot seen? The lifespan of small appliances greatly depends on how often they are used, how well they are maintained and how well their quality holds up. Generally speaking, the average life expectancy of most small kitchen appliances ranges from five to 10 years. For example, mid- to high-end toasters can last six to eight years, and a toaster oven works an average of five years. If you’ve celebrated your 15th wedding anniversary and you’re still regularly using the crockpot or toaster you received as a wedding present, it might be time to add a new one to your Christmas list.

    To stay safe while cooking, keep the following additional tips in mind when you begin your food prep:

    • Make sure your appliances are plugged into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. When working properly, the GFCI senses any power flow imbalances and in turn trips the circuit.
    • Make sure all electric cords are in good working condition: do not use appliances with cords or plugs that are frayed, cracked, taped, wire-exposed or otherwise questionable.
    • If you use extension cords, make sure they are in good condition and that the correct type of cord is used for the job (for example, don’t use an everyday, thin extension cord for a high-powered appliance). Use them as a temporary solution, not a permanent one.
    • Although often a task that gets skipped, read the appliance’s operating instructions prior to use.

    When not in use, always unplug small appliances to prevent any unnecessary energy consumption, especially if the appliance has LED displays or any other standby features that consume energy.

  • Getting familiar with the cyber basics

    October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so take a look at a few tips you can implement to keep yourself safe online.

    At a time when we are more connected than ever, being “cyber smart” is of the utmost importance. This year has already seen more than a fair share of cyberattacks and breaches, including the high-profile attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and other critical infrastructure. Furthermore, as underlined by these recent breaches, cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated with more evolved criminals cropping up each day. Luckily, there are several steps that we can take to mitigate risks and stay one step ahead of these cyberthreats.

    Enable multi-factor authentication

    Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds that necessary second check to verify your identity when logging in to one of your accounts. By requiring multiple methods of authentication, your account is further protected from being compromised, even if a criminal hijacks your password. In this way, MFAs make it more difficult for password-cracking tools to enable attackers to break into accounts. Also, with MFA enabled, if you get a notification for authorization and were not expecting the request, then you know someone is trying to access your account allowing you to login and change the password.

    Use strong passwords and password manager

    This may seem obvious, but all too often securing strong passwords is overlooked. People are spending more time online, and that has contributed to more prowling for accounts to attack. Using long, complex and unique passwords is a good way to stop your account from being hacked. With the need for stronger more lengthy passwords, an easy way of keeping track and remembering your passwords is by using a password manager such as LastPass, KeepPass, etc.

    Perform software updates

    When a device prompts you that it’s time to update the software, it may be tempting to simply click postpone and ignore the message. However, having the latest security software, web browser and operating system on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats. So, don’t wait – update.

    Do your research

    Common sense is a crucial part of maintaining good online hygiene, and an intuitive step to stay safe online is to do some research before downloading anything new to your device. Before downloading any new app, make sure that it’s safe by checking who created the app, what the user reviews say and if there are any articles published online about the app’s privacy and security features.

    Check your settings

    Be diligent to double check your privacy and security settings and be aware who can access your documents. This extends from Google docs to Zoom calls and beyond. For meetings on Zoom, for example, create passwords so only those invited to the session can attend, and restrict who can share their screen or files with the rest of the attendees.

    Being “cyber smart” and maintaining stellar online hygiene is the best way to protect yourself and others from cyberattacks. No single tip is foolproof but taken together, they can make a real difference for taking control of your online presence. By taking preventive measures and making a habit of practicing online safety, you can exponentially decrease your odds of being hacked – and prevent lost time and money, as well as frustration.

  • Electrical safety tips for hunters

    When preparing for hunting season, hunters understandably have their sights set on wild game, but Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) also urges hunters to be aware of and take precautions around potential electrical hazards.

    In a state dominated by hardwood hollows and pine thickets, wildlife can often be easily seen along rights of way. For landowners and their guests, this wildlife activity and low cover provide unique and fruitful hunting experiences 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. When engaging in dove hunting, avoid shooting any birds that land on 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 cooperative’s lines. On transmission rights of ways (tall high voltage lines) more distance is required. Contacting the owner of the lines can determine safe placement of structures.

    To ensure that 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.

    Take note of 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.

  • Be Prepared Before a Storm Strikes

    In the event of a power outage, be prepared by keeping the following items in an easy-to-find emergency supply kit:

    Water: Three-day supply, one gallon per person per day.

    Tools: Flashlight, extra batteries, manual can opener, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert.

    First aid kit and prescriptions: First aid supplies, hand sanitizer and at least one week’s supply of prescriptions and medications for the family.

    Medical devices

    Many of us have emergency kits prepared in the event of a power outage. While we typically think of items such as water, nonperishable food and flashlights, those utilizing home medical devices requiring electricity have additional concerns to consider during an outage.

    It’s important to prepare medical equipment (just as you would an emergency kit) before a storm occurs. First, check with your device manufacturer or consult the manual to determine if your device can be used with batteries or a generator. If the device can run on batteries, have plenty of extras ready before a potential weather event. Since outage lengths vary, it’s recommended to keep a week’s supply on hand.

    Additionally, if your device requires water for use or cleaning, only use bottled, boiled or treated water until you are sure your local water supply is safe.

    With your device, keep cards handy that have the following information.

    Contact card that lists:

    • Your name
    • Date of birth
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • The name and number of your doctor
    • Updated emergency contacts

    Device card that lists:

    • The device type and model number
    • Your local power company and phone number
    • Your local fire department and phone number
    • Ambulance service and phone number
    • Your home care agency and phone number
    • Your health care provider and phone number
    • Device supplier and phone number

    And don’t forget about any medications that need to be kept cold. During an outage, refrigerators will typically maintain a cool temperature for up to four hours, and medications can remain in a closed refrigerator during that time. If the outage lasts longer than four hours, remove the medications as soon as possible and place them in a cooler packed with ice or ice packs. To ensure the medications are safe for use, monitor the temperature of the cooler with a thermometer and keep medications out of direct contact with the ice to avoid freezing.

    Once power is restored, check the settings on your device to make sure they have not changed, as they may return to default settings after a power outage.

    In addition to these measures, it’s also important to include alternative living arrangements in your plan. In case of an extended outage, having one or more locations you could temporarily go to can also provide relief.

    Power outages can be stressful, especially if you use medical equipment, but by planning now, you can achieve peace of mind if they do occur.

     

  • Stay safe around substations

    When electricity is generated in power plants, it is transmitted over long distances at a high voltage. An electrical substation has voltages as high as 500,000 volts running through it – which will kill in an instant. Through substation transformers this high voltage is reduced to distribution levels in the substation and then sent through the distribution lines where a service transformer reduces it even further for service in homes and businesses. Because of the high voltage in substations, it is important that safety precautions are taken by trained workers who are the only ones allowed to work in or near substations.

    Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s (CAEC) substations are surrounded by metal fences topped with barbed wire to make them inaccessible to the public. Signs are placed on fences and gates to warn of the potential danger of electrocution. These warning signs are also placed on the sides of the substation and often contain text such as “Warning – keep out – hazardous voltage inside – can shock, burn or cause death” with a symbol of a person being electrocuted. If a child’s kite, ball or other toy is accidentally lost in a substation area, do not retrieve it yourself. Additionally, do not attempt to rescue a pet that goes inside the substation. Call the electric company associated with the substation and ask them to help retrieve your belonging. If it’s a CAEC substation, call 1-800-545-5735 or, after 9 p.m., call 1-800-619-5460 for assistance.

    When the authorized personnel arrive, do not attempt to accompany them into the substation area, but wait outside the fence while they retrieve your property. Workers who enter the substation must follow strict safety requirements, including wearing a hard hat, safety shoes, safety glasses, arc flash clothing and special gloves designed to protect them.

    Educate your children on the dangers of electrical substations and teach them to recognize the danger signs displayed on high-voltage equipment. It’s particularly important that children, who may not understand warning signs, realize the dangers of high voltage.

    If you notice anything strange or out of place with a substation, such as trespassing, damage or vandalism, call us to report the details at 1-800-545-5735.

  • 10 Things to Have Before the Storm Hits

    Emergencies arrive unexpectedly, and when they do, everyone makes a mad rush to the store. Avoid this rush by gathering basic emergency and disaster supplies now.

    Collect and store these 10 essential items to get ready for an emergency. For more preparedness tips for everything, from hurricanes to winter storms, visit the American Red Cross website.

    1. Water
    2. Food
    3. Can Opener
    4. Medications
    5. First Aid kit
    6. Flashlight
    7. Radio
    8. Clothes
    9. Personal Care Items
    10. Important Documents

    Storage Advice: Place your emergency supply kit in water proof bags. Store the bags in one or two emergency containers, such as plastic tubs, unused trash cans or duffel bags.

    Store your kit where family members can locate it. Try to have enough food, liquid, batteries and other supplies to last one to four weeks depending on the emergency.

  • Stay safe when using space heaters

    electric heater

     

    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.

     

  • 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
      and electrocution.
    • 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.