Residential Electrical Safety Tips
Tips for staying safe from electric issues at home
What to do before you dig in your yard
Call 811 before you dig. Did you know: Something as simple as planting shrubs, installing a fence, mailbox post, or sprinkler system can create a dangerous situation. State law requires you to call at least two business days before you start digging. Here's what else you have to know as a homeowner:
- 811 locates need to be under the name of the person who is doing the digging. If a contractor is digging, they must call 811 for the locate.
- Mark the dig area with white paint or stakes for the locators.
- Once located, don’t move or alter the marks until the lines are exposed.
- Note the length of time markers remain valid. It varies by state.
- Only use hand tools to expose the utility line when digging within two feet of the marked area.
- Support exposed gas pipelines with secure nylon straps, wood shoring, and ropes so they don’t break or rupture.
- Use sand or rock-free dirt as backfill.
- Property owners can call 811 requesting private locates for any non-utility owned facilities (such as underground power or gas lines to an outbuilding).
How to fix a blown fuse
Fuses blow. Breakers trip. It happens. Here's what to do if you're left in the dark.
- Know the most common culprit. Usually, it's too many appliances plugged into your kitchen circuit.
- Replace any burned out fuses. Turn off the main power switch, and make sure you use a fuse with the same rating. Then restore power.
- Check the circuit breaker. If it tripped, you just need to set it back to the “on” position.
Brad: When the power goes out, we all want the same thing: for it to come back on as soon as possible. To solve the problem, your first instinct might be to call Avista Customer Service to investigate. However, you may be able to save time by taking a few quick steps on your own first.
Hi, I'm Brad, a line serviceman at Avista. Sometimes just resetting your circuit breaker or GFI outlets can restore your power and it only takes a couple minutes. Here are a couple clues your power outage might be caused by your GFI outlets. If there is only partial power affecting a small area of your home, only a few appliances or specific outlets, then you should reset your GFI outlets. To reset a GFI outlet, press the reset button until it clicks.
GFI outlets are located in rooms where they may be sinks and/or water. Look for them in garages, kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. You may need to reset all the GFI outlets in your home to fix the problem. If you still do not have power, a tripped breaker may be the problem. Here are a couple clues your power outage might be caused by your breaker: the power went off while you were using an appliance such as a hairdryer, oven, space heater, air conditioner, microwave, or clothes dryer; or only part of your home is without power. Do your neighbors have power and you don't? Or you have a digital electric meter and can still see its display. This means there's power getting to the meter. If the display is blank, there is no power getting to the meter and you should report a power outage.
You may also need to check your circuit breakers. Circuit breakers are one of the most important safety mechanisms in your home. Whenever electrical wiring has too much current flowing through it, the breakers will trip and cut the power until the problem can be fixed. Without the breakers, there would be nothing to prevent 50 amps of electricity from running through a 15 amp wire. Allowing too much current flow through a wire can greatly increase the potential for fire. The electrical panel which holds the circuit breakers is often located inside a closet, garage, or basement. The circuit breakers are stacked inside the panel and have a lever or button that places each one in the on or off position. You'll also see a large circuit breaker at the top of the panel called the main, which controls the power to all the circuit breakers below it.
In some areas, a second main breaker is found outside the building near the electrical meter. This is often the case if you live or work in a multi-dwelling unit such as an apartment complex, duplex, or shopping mall. Mobile home parks will also have a second main beaker at the meter which may be located on a pedestal or pole separate from the building. These main breakers are often overlooked and commonly trip. If you need assistance resetting these breakers, please contact your property manager or owner.
A circuit breaker that's been tripped will be in either the middle or off position, or it may not looked tripped at all. It's a good idea to reset your breakers anytime you experience a power outage. Before you reset it, turn off or unplug all the devices that are plugged into the circuit. You want to be sure there are no dangerous conditions before you restore the power. To reset a circuit breaker that is tripped, push the breaker all the way to the off position and then back to the on position. Often when you cannot reset the breaker, it's because it must be turned all the way to the off position first. If the circuit breaker trips again before you've turned anything on or plugged anything in, the breaker itself may need to be replaced or a serious wiring fault may exist. Immediately call a qualified electrician.
If the circuit breaker trips after plugging in or turning on a device, that device may have a short or it may be placing too much of a load on the circuit. If you've reset your breakers and still do not have power coming into your home, you can report your outage using your mobile device or online at AvistaUtilities.com.
You can call Avista at any time at 1-800-227-9187. We'll have someone investigate the issue as soon as possible. At Avista, we just want you to be safe.
How to avoid shocks and burnsYour appliances
- Keep electrical appliances away from water.
- Never insert a metal object into an appliance (that goes for your toaster, too!).
- Unplug at the plug head, not the cord.
- Unplug a smoking appliance or one that sparks or shocks you. Have it repaired before you use it again.
- Unplug any appliance on fire, or remove the fuse or switch the breaker to “off.”
- Avoid any contact with your electrical system. Plastic gloves, utensils, or other household items will not protect you.
Your outlets and cords
- Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) for outdoor outlets and those in crawl spaces, bathrooms, garages and near your kitchen sink.
- Don’t overload electric outlets with too many plugs.
- Don't overuse extension cords. Check their recommended rating, and never string two together or place an extension cord underneath a rug.
- Cover your outlets with plastic safety caps if you have small children around.
- Don't use worn cords.
- Don’t use the cord to carry an appliance.
- Use a licensed electrician for your home improvement projects.
If a fire sparks from an electrical outlet, evacuate the premises and call 911.
Home electrical fires
In case of an electrical fire, here are some important tips:
- Don't touch an appliance that catches fire.
- Unplug the appliance (or shut off the breaker or pull the related fuse).
- Use an approved A-B-C rated extinguisher to put out the fire. Never use water on an electrical fire as it can shock you.
- If you can't control the fire, evacuate the premises and call 911 from a safe place.
How to stay safe outside
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions when using power tools and electric lawn mowers.
- Double check: are your power tools intended for outdoor use?
- Only use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to plug power tools into outlets.
- Watch out for overhead power lines. Keep ladders and long-handled tools 10 feet away.
- Don't fly objects near a power line, like a kite, model airplane (or any flying object).
- Keep tall objects away from power lines, like sailboat masts, boats on trailers and fishing poles.
- Don't assume a telephone or cable line on the ground is safe to move. It can be energized from somewhere else.
Downed power lines
Should you ever come across a downed power line (often knocked down by trees and branches during windstorms), get back and stay back. You should:
- Always assume the downed line is "hot" or energized.
- Never touch or move a downed line.
- Don't try to move a person or object touching a downed line or you may also end up a victim.
- Move back as far away as possible-even the ground around a downed line can be dangerous.
- Avoid fences and other nearby objects, as they may be electrified when a power line falls on them.
- Keep others away and call 911 and then call Avista.
If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay inside. If others approach or attempt to help, remind them to stay away. Only if a fire or smoke forces you to leave should you get out. However, never touch the vehicle and ground at the same time or stand with your legs apart. Jump as far as you can away from the vehicle and land with feet together. Keeping your feet together, shuffle away and don't return to the vehicle until Avista says it's safe.
Other safety tips
- Kids can learn how to use energy safely and responsibly on our e-SMARTkids site. There are resources for parents, teachers can request a school presentation for grades 3 through 6, and more.
How your meter is tested
Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the electric meters serving our customers is an important responsibility to us. That's why Avista has meter testing programs in place that meet requirements of the public utility commissions in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.
Electric meter testing facts:
- Each meter is tested at the factory by the manufacturer.
- Avista randomly tests meters from each pallet received by the company before putting the meters into service.
- On average, annual random meter tests are 100% accurate.
- Avista tests customer meters using equipment that is tested every two years by Seattle City Light, which tests their equipment in Washington, D.C. to national industry standards.
- Electric meters are tested in the field which means you would experience only a momentary power interruption.
To ensure your safety, Avista employees wear photo identification, and authorized contract representatives also have identification.