Electrical Flood Safety

Rain events on the east coast of Queensland and New South Wales have been very prevalent in the past few months. The threat of rising water levels and potential for flooding present a whole host of concerns for both business owners and residents. Often the primary concern when water starts to enter a property is to move things of value up to higher levels. Little thought is given to electrical safety, and it is of course common knowledge that water is a highly effective conductor of electrical charge. When water reaches the mains electricity supply, the consequences could be fatal, so in anticipation of future rain events, we take a look at what people should do when faced with this situation.

As a Brisbane based electrician Auchenflower, being a low-lying riverside suburb, was the focus of many service calls for our team following the March floods. Many clients that called us to have their electrical systems checked and reconnected expected the waters would rise to dangerous levels but were ill prepared for what to do with their electrics. 

Our advice to them and to anyone else as guidelines for the future are clear and simple:

Firstly, if there is the threat of flooding in your suburb, the first thing you should do is to get all of your electrical appliances out of the danger zone. Quite often, houses that were originally built to be lived in upstairs are developed underneath. Consequently, over time, the use of these areas becomes more than was originally intended and addition bedrooms, rumpus rooms, offices and a host of other uses bring with them electrical equipment to areas that probably weren’t meant to have any.

If you are expecting things to be bad, and you have sufficient forewarning, think carefully about having a professional electrician disconnect your supply before the water levels get out of control. If it is too late to get an electrician on site and you need to disconnect your supply, find the switchboard with your mains supply connections and turn all of the switches off. This advice comes with a call for extreme caution if water levels are already rising and your feet are in water. Do not touch the switchboard or housing directly, instead use something wooden or non-conductive to open the cover, and to turn off each of the switches.

Sometimes the water rises so fast that you have not had the opportunity to disconnect the supply. If this is the case, then get out of the building. Any appliances that have already contacted water could become live so stay away from them and definitely don’t touch them or try to use them. 

The risks don’t end once you have vacated the property. Our roads and streets are of course where electrical infrastructure is situated, and the threat of water entering substations, or of fallen power lines, means that what is likely now underwater is both out of sight and potentially far more dangerous. You should be aware of where the network is or was located and stay at least eight meters away. If you suspect that a part of the network may have fallen or is covered with flood water, stay at least 150m away.