With many people still without power in areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is providing the following safety tips for homeowners:

Portable Generators

Portable generators can be a convenient source of temporary power during outages caused by storms, but they can also be dangerous if not used properly.

  • Do not operate a portable generator in your home or in any other enclosed or even-partially enclosed area. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
  • Make sure that there is at least one battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Test it before using your generator.
  • Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring unless an appropriate transfer switch has been installed by a licensed, qualified electrician. 
  • Always turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling.

Submerged Electrical Appliances

  • Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if reenergized without proper reconditioning or replacement.
  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer. Certain equipment will require replacement, while a trained professional may be able to recondition other devices.
  • Electrical items, such as circuit breakers, fuses, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), receptacles, plugs, and switches, can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them if they have been submerged.
  • Ocean water and salt spray can be particularly damaging to electrical equipment due to the corrosive and conductive nature of the salt water residue.
  • Damage to electrical equipment can also result from exposure to flood waters contaminated with chemicals, sewage, oil and other debris.


  • Do not return home until instructed by the appropriate local authorities.
  • Return home during daylight hours, especially if power has not been restored.
  • Take care when stepping into a flooded area, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potentially deadly trap.
  • If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities immediately. Do not turn on lights, light matches or engage in any activity that could create a spark.

Recovering from a natural disaster takes significant time and funding. When replacing appliances and making repairs to your home, ensure that you’re purchasing legitimate electrical products, and having them installed by qualified electricians. Today, counterfeits are more sophisticated than ever before, making them difficult to spot.  Use ESFI’s helpful tips to help avoid the purchase of counterfeit electrical products.

To learn about rebuilding according to current codes visit NEMA’s Storm Reconstruction Toolkit.

About ESFI
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home and the workplace. ESFI proudly sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May, and engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities. To learn more about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.