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Electrical Systems and Appliances

Power outages are not only inconvenient but also create many potential environmental problems. Food may spoil and become inedible or potentially cause disease. Water may become contaminated because of loss of function of water purification systems. Extreme heat or cold may cause discomfort and severe conditions leading to illness and death. Portable generators if used within structures may cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Dangerous situations may occur when working in the vicinity of downed wires and lead to electrocutions, which are a common cause of occupational deaths.

Best Practices for Electrical Systems and Appliances

  • • Extreme caution must be used when working in the vicinity of downed power lines which may or may not be de-energized.
  • • Specialists working on power lines must assume that all lines are energized and de-energize them by making a visible open point between the load and supply sides before conducting any type of repair.
  • • All electrical lines must be properly grounded.
  • • All workers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • • If a worker is shocked, he/she must immediately receive emergency medical help.
  • • If a power line falls on a car, do not touch the car or leave the car until the local utility company has shut off the power.
  • • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by using gasoline generators out of doors and away from confined areas.
  • • Do not siphon gasoline from motor vehicles for use in gasoline generators.
  • • When power is restored, do not touch electrical equipment or start heavy equipment in the occupational setting until experts determine that the equipment is safe.
  • • Before plugging in electrical equipment within the house, make sure that the equipment has not been wet or damaged and that it is being plugged into a grounded receptacle.


(See Chapter 7, “Food Security and Protection”)

Additional Best Practices for Food

  • • Discard any food that is not in water-proof containers including all fresh vegetables and packaged goods that have come in contact with flood waters or fires.
  • • Discard all cans that are dented, creased, swollen, rusty, or without labels.
  • • Where water is added to baby formula, utilize bottled water sources only that have not come in contact with the floodwaters.
  • • If the electricity had been shut off for less than 4 hours, the refrigerator has not been opened and is now back in service, check all food in the refrigerators and freezers and make sure the temperatures are below 40°F. If the temperature is higher than 40°F, discard the food in a safe manner. If the temperature is below 40°F, you may use the food. However, because meat, poultry, fish, both raw and cooked eggs, and leftovers are highly perishable and frequently are the source of the growth of microorganisms that cause foodborne disease, it is best to get rid of them in a safe manner instead of using them.
  • • Prior to the anticipated electrical outage, freeze meat and poultry to help keep their temperature below 40°F if there is a brief service interruption.
  • • Freeze containers of water into blocks of ice and have them ready to insert into the refrigerator as soon as there is an interruption to the electrical service to help maintain the temperature of the refrigerator below 40°F.
  • • Thoroughly wash all surfaces, equipment, pans, dishes, and utensils with detergent and hot water, thoroughly rinse off the detergent and then either use chlorine or a quaternary ammonium chloride compound to decontaminate the surfaces and allow them to air dry.
  • • Determine if individuals are having symptoms of foodborne or waterborne diseases from the consumption of contaminated food or water by checking if two or more of the people have consumed food or water at the same establishment and now have symptoms of diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and/or vomiting, and have approximately the same period of incubation. If so, immediately conduct comprehensive epidemiological studies and take necessary actions to stop the immediate outbreak and prevent future ones.
  • • Conduct thorough inspections including flowcharts of preparation procedures of hazardous foods of all facilities which have been damaged by flood waters and other sources of disasters and take necessary action to correct potential problems.
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