- Never use electric appliances close to water.
- Walk through your home and search for potential electric hazards. Many hazards are easily identified and corrected.
- Never put items into electric outlets that are not intended for them.
- Do not connect power strips to power strips.
- Make sure electric outlets aren't overloaded.
- Check all electric and extension cords to make sure they aren't cracked, frayed, or covered by rugs or furniture.
- Use the correct wattage light bulb for lighting fixtures.
- Keep electric appliances away from damp or hot surfaces, and make sure they have appropriate air circulation.
- Signs of other potential hazards that should be examined by a qualified electrician include dim or flickering lights, arcs or sparks, sizzling or buzzing sounds from your electric systems, odors, switch plates hot to the touch, loose plugs and damaged insulation.
- Never use electric power tools in the rain or wet conditions.
- Electric lawnmowers should never be used when grass is wet.
- Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before use for frayed power cords, broken housings or broken plugs.
- When using tools or extension cords outdoors, make sure they are marked for outdoor use.
- Unplug all portable power tools when not in use. Don't leave power tools unattended, even briefly.
- Metal ladders conduct electricity. Be careful of overhead wires and power lines.
- Stay away from utility ground-level electric boxes and substations.
- If you see a downed power line, stay away from it and call Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative.
Accidentally contacting a power line can be dangerous and in some cases, even deadly. Fallen or disconnected power lines are dangerous. Never approach or touch them.
Always assume that a downed power line is powered on and follow these instructions:
- Avoid touching the fallen line by hand or with an object such as a pole, broom or stick.
- Avoid touching anything, such as a machine, object or device, or anyone in contact with a fallen power line.
- Keep children and pets away from power lines.
- Avoid driving over a downed power line.
- Call us immediately to report a fallen line.
Whether you are playing outdoors with your children or working on landscaping projects, keep a safe distance from power lines and other equipment your co-op uses to get electricity to your home.
Always remember to:
Stay away from power lines, meters, transformers and electrical boxes.
Don’t climb trees near power lines.
Never fly kites, remote control airplanes, drones or balloons near power lines.
If you get something stuck in a power line, call Heart of Texas Electric to get it.
Keep a safe distance from overhead power lines when working with ladders or installing objects such as antennas.
Never touch or go near a downed power line.
Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
Keep children and pets away.
If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay. Warn people not to touch the car or the line. Call or ask someone to call the local cooperative.
The only circumstance in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire. Open the door. Do not step out of the car. You may receive a shock. Instead, jump free of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 and call your electric utility company's Service Center/Dispatch Office.
Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.
When the power is out, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.
When using gasoline and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help protect utility line workers or other repair workers or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings to at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.
A common source of unintentional backfeeding is an electrical generator (typically a portable generator) that is improperly connected to a building electrical system. A properly installed electrical generator incorporates the use of a transfer switch or generator interlock kit to ensure the incoming electrical service line is disconnected when the generator is providing power to the building. In the absence (or improper usage) of a transfer switch, unintentional backfeeding may occur when the power provided by the electrical generator is able to flow over the electrical service line. Because an electrical transformer is capable of operating in both directions, electrical power generated from equipment on the consumer's premises can backfeed through the transformer and energize the distribution line to which the transformer is connected.
The problem of backfeed in electrical energy is a potential risk for electrical energy workers and the general public. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths.
Anyone who plans to dig should call 811 or go to their state 811 center’s website a few business days before digging to request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don’t unintentionally dig into an underground utility line.
811 protects you and your community! Hitting a buried line while digging can disrupt utility service, cost money to repair, or cause serious injury or death. Always contact your 811 center, wait the required time for utilities to respond to your request, and ensure that all utilities have responded to your request before putting a shovel in the ground.
Space heaters can provide extra comfort during cold weather. If not used properly, however, they can also be a safety hazard. Portable heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. With a few simple precautions, you can stay warm and safe all winter long.
Choosing a space heater
Safety starts at purchase. Select a unit certified for safe operation by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or another nationally recognized testing organization. Look for heaters with a guard around the heating element.
Consider the size of the area you want to heat. A heater that's too small or too large for an area can waste energy without providing the extra comfort you need.
Keep your space heater running safely by following these simple tips:
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters — the surface can get very hot.
- Never leave a space heater running when you're asleep or when you leave the area.
- Locate the heater at least three feet away from bedding, furniture and drapes, or where towels or other fabrics could fall on it and start a fire.
- Don't place heaters in areas where they may become wet — such as a bathroom. Corrosion or damage to heater parts can cause a fire or electric shock.
- Make sure your heater is placed on a level, non-flammable surface — not on rugs or carpets.
- Avoid using extension cords when plugging in space heaters. Don't hide cords under rugs or carpet.
- Never store flammable liquids near a space heater — they can be ignited by an electrical spark.
- Don't use fuel-fired space heaters indoors. Without proper ventilation, they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Always maintain your heater in safe working condition and don't attempt to operate a damaged unit in your home. Follow all manufacturer's guidelines regarding operating and storing your heater.
With some time and effort, you can help ensure the safety of your family and protect your home from damage. Follow these five different ways to protect your home from a devastating fire.
- Install Smoke Alarms
- Install UL-Certified smoke alarms on every level of your home and make sure that you test them regularly.
- Cook Carefully
- Never leave food unattended while cooking food on the stovetop or in the oven and use a timer to track how long food has been cooking. Keep flammable items away from the stovetop.
- Heat Harmlessly
- Keep flammable items, such as paper and rugs, at least three feet away from a space heater or fireplace and never leave them unattended while running.
- Plug Safely
- Don't run electric cords under rugs or carpets and check them to make sure they aren't frayed or damaged. Do not overload outlets.
- Make a Plan
- Make an escape plan and practice it regularly with your family. Have two escape routes identified from each room and designate a meeting place at a safe distance from your home.
Extreme winter weather can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can suddenly be hit with heavy snowfall or intense cold. Winter storms can result in closed streets and highways, power outages, and flooding. Take action now to ensure the safety and comfort of your family in the event of extreme winter weather.
Before a storm
- Have snow removal equipment on hand, as well as rock salt to melt ice and sand to improve traction.
- Regular fuel sources may be cut off, so make sure an alternative is available to heat your home. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Fires pose an additional risk when alternate heating sources are in use.
- Locate your main water supply and valves; make sure you know how to shut them off in case a pipe bursts.
- Repair roof leaks and keep gutters clear. Trim any tree branches that could fall during a storm.
- Winterize by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows, sealing the attic area and installing storm windows. This will help to keep your family safe and comfortable during a storm.
During a storm
- Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- To conserve fuel, keep your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
- Stay dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent the loss of body heat.
- Watch for signs of frostbite; these include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers and toes. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Drive only when necessary. If you must drive, travel on main roads during daylight hours. Keep others informed of your whereabouts.
After a storm
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Help neighbors who may require special assistance including infants, the elderly and people with disabilities.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation and open all faucets; pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold. Do not try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame.
- Follow forecasts and be prepared when venturing outside. Major winter storms are often followed by extremely cold conditions.
A little forethought and attention to detail will help to ensure that you and your family stay warm, dry and safe this winter, no matter what the weather is outside.
Knowing what's happening with the weather and what's, possibly, coming is vital to making sure you are prepared for it when and if it should happen.
Be Prepared for a Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm is a heavy rain shower that produces thunder and lightning. They are often accompanied by strong, gusty winds and hail. Thunderstorms can cause injury or death and severe property damage. Take these steps to protect your home and family:
- Sign up for your community's emergency warning system
- Identify steady buildings near where you live, work or play.
- Discuss thunderstorm safety with your family and what to do in case of severe weather.
- Cut down or trim trees that may fall on your home during high winds.
- Purchase surge protectors or a lighting protection system to safeguard your home.
- If a storm appears likely, pay attention to weather reports and postpone outdoor activities.
- If a thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in your home or other building.
- Shut windows and exterior doors securely and stay away form windows.
- Indoors, avoid using plugged-in electrical equipment, and don't take a shower or bath.
- Listen to local authorities or weather forecasts for when it's safe to go outside.
- Watch for and avoid downed trees or power lines. Report them immediately.
There are about 100,000 thunderstorms in the U.S. each year, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Thunderstorms occur most often in the spring and summer during the afternoon and early evening, but they can can happen year-round and at any hour.
Standby generators play a critical role during power outages and peak demand periods. If they fail to start when needed, costly demand charges and production losses may result.
What causes generators to fail? About 90% of failures are the result of three things — battery malfunction, fuel problems, and coolant or oil leaks. Diligent maintenance in these areas can save you money and extend equipment life.
Batteries and breakers
Batteries can lose their charge over time. Lead-acid batteries can accumulate lead sulfates on their internal plates and should be replaced as needed. Failures can also occur from dirty and loose connections, so clean and tighten these regularly. After performing maintenance, double-check the system for proper operation and switch position.
If the circuit breaker on the generator is open or tripped, the automatic transfer switch signals the generator to start, but no power is actually transmitted. Always check the status of the switch regarding its position and source availability. Determine what caused the trip prior to resetting; power surges caused by an outage can damage the switch.
Generator failure can result from air or water in the fuel system, improper fuel levels, and contaminated or stale fuel. Just one small bubble of air can cause an injector to not fire at startup. Air in the fuel also reduces its energy content and lubricity, preventing the engine from generating full power and damaging fuel system components.
To clear air bubbles, run the engine every week for at least five minutes. Also, inspect the fuel tank for water before fuel is delivered. Continue to monitor fuel for several days after delivery. Engines equipped with electric shut-off solenoids should always have a manual bypass.
Loss of fuel can be caused by mechanical fuel gauge malfunctions or plugged filters. Upgrading to electronic fuel gauges can reduce these malfunctions. Plugged filters, caused by contaminated fuel, can lead to tank sludge, damaged fuel components and generator failure.
Inspect your entire fuel system regularly to ensure all components are operating correctly. Periodically check fuel tanks for contaminants. Store fuel in a clean, cool and dry place. Fuel will last up to one year without significant quality degradation.
Low coolant or oil
Low coolant level is often caused by an external or internal coolant leak. Check for any visible puddles during weekly inspections. Leaks in coolant block heaters can be prevented by using silicon hoses instead of rubber. Install isolation ball valves for block heater hose connections.
Extended operation on low coolant can cause catastrophic engine failure. Follow manufacturer's recommendations and test coolant for proper pH and freeze point. Coolant chemistry does change over time and can cause significant damage.
Internally plugged radiator cores can also reduce coolant levels. A full load test with an external load bank is the only accurate way to check a cooling system. Low coolant temperature is caused by faulty block heaters. Check the cylinder head (or engine thermostat housing) for temperature and verify that the engine or block-heater hoses are warm.
Extended operation with low or contaminated oil can cause engine failure. Running loads well below the rated output level on a regular basis can also lead to oil leaks. Check oil levels on a monthly basis. Look for contamination, frothing and sludge. Change the oil regularly according to manufacturer's recommendations.
A standby generator is ready for emergencies as long as it's properly maintained. Regular inspection and testing should be conducted according to manufacturer's recommendations.
Have you ever heard somebody say they're going to get some air? In fact, most people get plenty. On average, people ingest 30 pounds of air a day, compared to four pounds of food and two pounds of water.
People do most of their breathing indoors, and that's what makes good indoor air quality so important. Health issues resulting from indoor air pollution cost billions of dollars each year and reduce productivity.
Make a fresh start by focusing on ventilation system maintenance and design. You'll improve the health and comfort of your facility and help increase your bottom line.
Indoor air quality, health and productivity
Indoor air pollution is caused by the build-up of contaminants coming primarily from inside the building. Common sources of indoor air pollution include biological organisms, building materials and furnishings, cleaning agents, copy machines and pesticides.
These pollutants can contribute to building-related illnesses that have clearly identifiable causes, such as Legionnaire's disease. Poorly maintained ventilation systems can contribute to Sick Building Syndrome, which produces physical symptoms without clearly identifiable causes. Common symptoms include eye, nose and throat irritation.
These disorders lead to increased employee sick days and reduced work efficiency. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identifies poor ventilation as an important contributing factor in many sick building cases.
Ventilation system problems and solutions
When the ventilation system isn't working correctly, indoor air quality can deteriorate. Increasing the amount of outdoor air is the most commonly used fix, but a number of system design and operational issues can affect your indoor environment.
- Variable airflow. Designs specifying HVAC system operation at reduced or interrupted flow in response to space conditioning needs may impair contaminant removal. Define minimum ventilation rates by air cleanliness and distribution, as well as temperature and humidity.
- Vent placement. Air supply vents located near sources of pollution — such as exhaust vents, heavy traffic areas and trash dumpsters — provide a pathway for contaminants. Carefully evaluate the location of all air supply vents.
- Air distribution. Ensure registers aren't blocked by furniture or equipment and that partitions or other barriers are positioned so they don't restrict airflow. Locate air supply and return air vents at a reasonable distance to ensure balanced air distribution.
- Scheduling. Ventilation system scheduling is critical to maintaining good indoor air quality and should be based on occupancy levels or operating hours. Demand-controlled ventilation using carbon dioxide or volatile organic compound sensors can optimize indoor air quality and save energy. Consider monitoring outdoor air quality as required by green building codes.
Pay close attention to these issues. It will help you quickly spot potential sources of indoor air pollution and take steps to eliminate them.
Keep it fresh
Optimizing indoor air quality requires ongoing monitoring and a commitment to continuous improvement. Record keeping is also important. Document inspection and maintenance activities, as well as any indoor air quality problems and measures taken to solve them. Stay up-to-date on code changes or revisions to ventilation standards, such as ASHRAE Standard 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. Also, follow the recommendations in ASHRAE's Indoor Air Quality Guide - Best Practices for Design, Construction, and Commissioning.