Electrical Safety Education

Safety is a major element of our everyday life here at Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. All CVEC employees are schooled and trained in safe work practices, both outside in the live electricity environment and in our offices and homes.

Our safety motto is: Safe by choice, not by chance.

Electricity can cause burns, shocks, and electrocution. Your Co-op encourages all members to respect and use caution when working with or near electricity. Below are some tips to help you stay safe!

Electrical Safety at Home

Child Proof Rece­ptacles

As of 2008, all new and renovated dwellings require receptacles with a built in safety feature ... if a child attempts to insert an object in one outlet only, there is no contact with electricity. Two prongs must be inserted at once to trip a spring-loaded feature. Any qualified electrician could easily change out outlets if you live in an older home and have children at risk.

There's more info about these TR receptacles here (PDF).

Electrical Cord Safety
A women holding the two ends of an extension cord.

Extension cords, with their ability to bring any appliance or lamp within easy reach of an electrical outlet, are one of the most convenient products in the home. But when they are misused, they can also be a potential source of danger.

Choosing the right cord for the job:

  • Extension cords are generally rated in amps and volts. To determine if an extension cord is properly rated, add the total wattage of each bulb or electrical device, then divide by 120 to calculate the total number of amps. If the total number of amps is equal to or greater than the maximum rating of the cord, you must use a higher rated extension cord.
  • Larger appliances and power tools use cords with three prongs, or conductors, one of which is the ground wire.
  • Before buying any extension cord, check the product to ensure that a nationally recognized laboratory, such as CSA, UL, or ETL, has certified the product.
  • Outside the home, only use extension cords designed for outdoor use.
  • Choose a replacement cord with the correct insulation:
    • Electric space heaters, for example, are required to use cords with a thermosetting insulation to prevent the cord from melting. Look for the letter "H" on the cord.
    • Lamp cords are usually flat, and the individual conductors parallel to each other. This type of cord is limited to indoor use and light duty.
    • ​Appliance cords are usually round and have larger diameters because they are made using two layers of insulation over the copper conductors. The individual conductors are insulated and a second layer of insulation, called a jacket, is also applied.
  • Replace older extension cords if one of the prongs in the plug is not “polarized.” In a polarized plug, one prong will be wider than the other.

Never …

run extension cords through walls, under rugs or furniture, or across doorways.

try to repair a damaged extension cord with electrical tape; replace it.

overload an extension cord. If any part of the cord feels warm to the touch, the cord is drawing too much power and could cause a fire or shock hazard.

cut off the ground pin to connect a 3-prong appliance cord to a 2-wire extension cord or receptacle. Always use a CSA, UL or ETL listed adapter for this purpose.

place cords where someone could accidentally pull them down or trip over them.

leave unused outlets on the extension cord exposed to prevent children from making contact with a live circuit. Seal with attachment made for closing them off.

Know Your Home System
A hand pointing out the breaker box.

Electrical hazards are the major cause of home and workplace fatalities. Contact with large appliances, such as air conditioners, contributes to nearly 20 percent of consumer product electrocutions.

Whether at home or in the work place, there are a number of safety precautions that can reduce the chance of deaths, injuries and economic losses due to electrical hazards.

  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help prevent electrocutions.
  • Understand your electrical system --- know which fuse or circuit breaker controls each switch, light and outlet.
  • Make sure circuits are turned off before starting work, and take measures to make sure they are not turned back on while working.
  • Use a circuit tester. Make sure it is working by testing it before and after you use it to test the circuit.
  • Always test before you touch.


Outdoor Safety
A yellow caution tape over an outdoor deck.

After a Storm

  • If power lines and poles are down in your yard or in the street, always treat them as if they were energized and dangerous. Never touch them! Stay away. Call CVEC to report the location so repairs can be made as soon as possible. 800-367-2832
  • ​Post-storm debris can hide power lines that have fallen. Fallen trees that contain energized power lines can energize any item it comes in contact with, such as a metal fence, a pond or standing water. Even the ground can be energized near fallen power lines. The real danger of fallen power lines is often hidden.
  • ​If your electric service is out, check with your neighbors to see if they have power. If they do, you may have only a blown fuse or a tripped breaker. Never replace a fuse or reset a circuit breaker with wet hands or while standing on a wet (or even damp) surface.
  • ​If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area. Don't connect the generator to your home's electrical panel or fuse boxes. It may cause electricity to feed back into the power lines, which can endanger linemen and damage electric service facilities.
  • ​If possible, avoid using candles. If you must use candles, remember that open windows and gusty winds can knock them over or blow flammable materials into them, so be careful about where you place them.
  • ​If your power is out following a storm and you must cook food with Sterno or charcoal, remember to do so outside in a well-ventilated area. Cooking indoors with Sterno or charcoal will produce deadly carbon-monoxide fumes. Replenish your supplies of batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food items and firewood in preparation for future storms as soon as it’s reasonably possible.

Helping line crews is appreciated, but working with power lines and electricity requires a high degree of training. In order to restore power with the highest degree of safety, restoration must be accomplished in a certain order. Above all, the hard working men and women restoring your power appreciate your patience and understanding that they are doing everything they can to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible.

Electricity & Water Don’t Mix!
A image of person with a red shirt and belt over their left shoulder.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) warns of dangers that are present when water comes in contact with electricity. To reduce electrical hazards, ESFI offers the following safety advice:

  • ​Summer is the season for swimming and boating. Awareness of electrical hazards around water can prevent deaths and injuries. Sailboats often have masts of 30 feet or more, which are dangerous when they come into contact with overhead power lines.
  • ​Staying at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines can help prevent lethal electrical hazards.
  • ​Use outlet covers on outdoor receptacles near swimming pools. Keep cords and electrical devices away from pools. Never handle electrical items when you are wet.
  • 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.
  • ​Electrical devices such as circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs and switches can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Replace those that have been submerged.
  • ​Do not allow power cord connections to become wet.
  • ​Outdoors, dangers such as power lines in contact with water can pose electrical hazards.
  • ​Indoors, submerged outlets or electrical cords may be energizing the water, a potential lethal trap.
  • ​When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electric shock.

When water comes in contact with electricity:

  • ​Flooded Areas: Take care when stepping into a flooded area, and be aware that submerged outlets or electrical cords may energize the water, posing a potential lethal trap.
  • ​Wet Electrical Equipment: 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. Electrical parts can become grounded and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire. A qualified service repair dealer should recondition electrical equipment that has been wet. Certain equipment will require complete replacement, while a trained professional can recondition other devices.

Keep Poles Clean and Clear
A electrical pole that includes attachments on the pole itself.

Your Co-op asks that utility poles not be used for anything other than their intended purpose ... carrying wires.

Nails, staples, or any means of attaching signs and flyers create a safety hazard for the Co-op’s linemen when they have to climb the pole. Obstructions can affect getting a solid footing, causing a slip when climbing. There is also the risk that a lineman could tear an insulated glove or other protective equipment, creating a risk for electrocution.

  • ​Don’t attach anything to a pole that will be difficult to climb around, such as birdhouses or feeders, basketball goals, or arbors for climbing plants.
  • ​Don’t use a utility pole as an element of any structure.
  • Don’t place landscaping around utility poles that can be damaged when the pole is climbed, or decorations that could hurt a lineman if he fell.
  • ​Use common sense around utility poles . . . remember it might need to be accessed on foot or with a bucket truck in order to get your or your neighbor’s power back up in a timely and safe manner.

Power Line Safety
A downed power line in front of a house.

Consumers need to be extra careful around power lines. Here’s some vital information to help ensure your safety around utility poles and power lines.

  • Never touch any fallen wire. If you see a downed power line, immediately call CVEC at 800-367-2832 and 911.
  • ​Move away from the line. The proper way to move away is to shuffle with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock. Electricity wants to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage zone … and it could do that through your body.
  • ​Consider every wire on the ground to be energized and dangerous. Never touch fallen power lines, even if there are no sparks. Only qualified electric utility workers should attempt to move downed power lines. Call CVEC and 911.
  • ​Never touch anything (cars, fences, people, etc.) that is in contact with a power line. You could be the next victim.
  • ​If you see downed lines and the ground is wet or has standing water, do not go outside. Do not put your feet near water where a downed power line is located.
  • ​Don’t touch anything, including people, which have come in contact with power lines. Don’t attempt to move the person, the line or anything else. Do not attempt to move them with another object such as a broom or stick. Even non-conductive materials such as wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity. Keep others away.
  • ​Most people do not know the difference between telephone lines and power lines. To be safe, stay away from both.
  • ​Do not approach a car that is touching power lines, even if there are people in the vehicle. Remain a safe distance away, keep anyone in the vehicle calm.
  • ​If you are in a car that is touching power lines, stay in your car. You are grounded and safe. Call CVEC and 911. Tell others to stay away from your car.
  • ​If you must leave your car because it’s on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the live car and the ground at the same time. This way you avoid being the path of electricity from the car to the earth. Shuffle away from the car.
  • ​Never drive over downed power lines. Even if they’re not energized, they can get tangled in your vehicle. Call CVEC and 911.
  • ​Do not attempt to cut or remove a tree that is, or could become, entangled with power lines.
  • ​If anyone in your household suffers an electric shock, call 911 or your local emergency medical service immediately. Even minor shocks can cause life-threatening conditions hours later, so it is important to seek medical attention.

Harvest Safety

Harvest season brings hard work and can be exhausting, but don't forget to keep these safety tips in mind to have a safe harvest.   

  • Always check your surroundings and keep farming equipment at least 10-foot away from all electrical lines and equipment in all directions.
  • ​Use a spotter and flags to maintain a safe distance from electrical lines and other equipment when doing field work.
  • Keep extensions and cargo in mind as they can add additional height and will conduct electricity if they come in contact with electrical lines.
  • Never try to raise or move a power line to clear a path. Contact CVEC immediately if it is sagging.

Electrical Safety Foundation International

The Electrical Safety Foundation International website.

Energy Education Council

A program of the Energy Education Council.

National Fire Protection Association

The electrical safety site for the National Fire Protection Association.

U.S. Fire Administration

Info from the U.S. Fire Administration.