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Posted: September 13, 2017

Hurricane Irma: What not to do while your electrical power is out

A man trims his own trees above a power line on SE Avenue F in Belle Glade, Florida, on September 11, 2017.
Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post
A man trims his own trees above a power line on SE Avenue F in Belle Glade, Florida, on September 11, 2017.

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By Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post

It’s a sad side story to nearly every storm event, including Hurricane Irma. People are hurt, or even die, either before or after the storm in incidents that are indirectly related. Irma added to the grim legacy.

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In Orlando, a family of three died of carbon monoxide poisoning; authorities suspect they ran a generator inside their home.

And in northern Broward County, a couple decided to swim in the condo pool. Back at their unit, the power finally came back on, and an appliance that apparently had not been powered down started a fire.

And that doesn’t include the many cuts, bruises and intestinal crises that will torment residents if they haven’t already.

Some post-Irma do’s and don’ts:

Never operate a generator or barbecue grill inside the home. Carbon monoxide is deadly, odorless, colorless and can kill in minutes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Do not use generators or grills even in open garages or porches unless they are at least 20 feet from the home.

Never connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Don’t plug a gasoline-powered generator into your household AC circuits. The electricity will travel outside your house to the downed power line. You could electrocute yourself or start a fire. Also, utility workers, believing the line is dead, could be electrocuted. Plug appliances directly into the generator.

Be careful with gasoline cans and propane tanks. There’s a danger of both fumes and possible fire and explosion. Don’t pour unwanted gasoline down a storm drain. Don’t leave cans at a curb; they won’t be picked up. Instead, take to a processing facility.

Stay away from downed power lines and poles. The line might still be electrified. And if a pole has been pulled down, the electrical line might have been pulled frighteningly taut; cutting up that pole could cause a fatal reaction.

Check all the electrical items in your home. Some might have been turned on when power was lost, and when power is restored, you’ll get a surge that could damage electronics.

If you’re not familiar with power tools, especially chainsaws, hire a professional rather than risking your life or, literally, your limb.

Don’t walk barefoot. The ground can be minefields of broken glass, wood shards and boards with nails still in them, sharp points facing up.


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