Nema Warns Hurricane Victims About Hazardous Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment

ROSSLYN, Va., August 31, 2005In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is warning battered citizens of the Gulf Coast region about the dangers present when water comes into contact with electricity.

As families and communities begin to clean up following this devastating event, there may be hidden electrical hazards," says NEMA Field Representative John Minick, who covers the southeast region. "Families should take the time to find and fix all electrical dangers caused by flooding or water damage."

NEMA has some important safety advice:

o Take care when stepping into a flooded basement, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may be energizing the water, a potential lethal trap.
o Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers.
o If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and reconditioned by a qualified service repairman. Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.
o Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician check the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use.
o Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
o Electrical devices such as circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs, and switches can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them when they have been submerged.
o When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.
o Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on the three-prong plug.

NEMA has published Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged Electrical Equipment, a brochure designed for use by suppliers, installers, inspectors, and users of electrical products. The document provides advice on the safe handling of electrical equipment that has been exposed to water. It outlines which items will require complete replacement or can be reconditioned by a trained professional. Equipment covered includes electrical distribution equipment, motor circuits, power equipment, transformers, wire, cable and flexible cords, wiring devices, GFCIs and surge protectors, lighting fixtures and ballasts, motors, electronic products including signaling, protection, communication systems, and industrial controls, and cable trays. The brochure may be downloaded free of charge at

Minick has worked closely with the electrical inspection community to publicize the availability of the NEMA brochure. He can be reached at (972) 642-8113 or

NEMA is the leading trade association in the United States representing the interests of electroindustry manufacturers. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its 400 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. Domestic shipments of electrical products within the NEMA scope exceed $100 billion.

Jason Peak
Senior Editor
(703) 841-3222


All Topics