Today electricity is a phenomenon that exists absolutely everywhere. We use it to illuminate our homes, charge our devices, provide power to our appliances, and to perform most of our daily tasks. For most of us, the extent to which we think about electricity does not go beyond our everyday use. But how much do we know about the mysterious force that lights our rooms, powers our appliances, and charges our devices?
Given its prominent presence in our day-to-day lives here in Kwakwani during the flood period, understanding the basics of electricity and how to stay safe around it is essential. This message seeks to help residents better understand electricity, including the hazards that it poses for workers and residents. It will also identify ways to mitigate those hazards.
Electricity is a form of energy that captures the flow of electrons through a conductor. It is important to know that water is a great conductor of electricity, allowing current to flow more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin. It’s important to note also that some materials carry electricity better than others. How well a given material allows electricity to pass through it is known as its resistance. If a substance has a high resistance to electrical current, that means that electrons cannot pass through it easily. These materials are otherwise known as insulators. Glass, rubber, cloth, and plastic are a few examples of good insulators, and are generally used to guard against the flow of electricity.
A conductor is the opposite of an insulator, and is known to carry electricity very well. Good conductors include copper, steel, aluminum and most metals. Conductors are often used to provide an easy path for electricity, such as the copper used in electrical wiring in homes. Electricity will always take the quickest and easiest path. If the most direct path involves flowing through the human body, this is where electricity will flow.
In addition to this, electricians and overhead line workers are at a very high risk of suffering electrocution on the job. Workers who work near overhead power lines bear the most considerable risk, primarily because the lines are not insulated even though they still can carry high volts of power. Even 50 volts can be damaging to the human body; thus, any contact with an overhead transmission power line could be deadly for our workers and our consumers.
Electricity can present a special hazard because of a likely or possible short circuit, electrical components under water, or water contacting electrically powered equipment, lighting, appliances or other electrically powered equipment. Electrocution can occur when someone enters a flooded yard which contains the electrical panel. Electrocution can also occur when standing in water while turning off a breaker, or turning off electrical equipment with submerged or damaged electrical outlets.
Electrical hazards are one of the many hazards that can occur in a flooding incident involving potential exposures to harmful substances, or contact with energized surfaces or energized water itself. During a flood, a hazardous flow of electric current can occur from submerged or damaged electrical equipment and the associated risk of electrocution from water damaged appliances.