Now that summer is in full swing, like many of you, I welcome more opportunities to be outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather. Summertime brings many of my favorite activities like cooking out with family and friends, afternoons on the water and simply slowing down a bit to enjoy life.

But summer months also make conditions right for dangerous storms. From ordinary summer storms to hurricanes that can impact our entire region (The 2021 hurricane season kicks off on June 1), these potential weather events can cause destruction to our electrical system. Despite the threats posed by summer weather, crews at your local electric co-op are ready and standing by to respond should power outages occur in your area.

When major storms knock out power, co-op line crews take all necessary precautions before they get to work on any downed lines.  You should also practice safety and preparedness to protect your family during major storms and outages.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the items below as a starting point for storm and disaster preparedness, but you can visit www.ready.gov for additional resources.

  • Stock your pantry with a three-day supply of non-perishable food, such as canned goods, energy bars, peanut butter, powdered milk, instant coffee, water and other essentials (i.e., diapers and toiletries).
  • Confirm that you have adequate sanitation and hygiene supplies including towelettes, soap and hand sanitizer.
  • Ensure your First Aid kit is stocked with pain relievers, bandages and other medical essentials, and make sure your prescriptions are current.
  • Set aside basic household items you will need, including flashlights, batteries, a manual can opener and portable, battery-powered radio or TV.
  • Organize emergency supplies so they are easily accessible in one location.

In the event of a prolonged power outage, turn off major appliances, TVs, computers and other sensitive electronics. This will help avert damage from a power surge, and will also help prevent overloading the circuits during power restoration. That said, do leave one light on so you will know when power is restored. If you plan to use a small generator, make sure it’s rated to handle the amount of power you will need, and always review the manufacturer’s instructions to operate it safely.

Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for storm and emergency information, and check your local co-op’s app or website for power restoration updates.

After the storm, avoid downed power lines and walking through flooded areas where power lines could be submerged. Allow ample room for utility crews to safely perform their jobs, including on your property.

Advance planning for severe storms or other emergencies can reduce stress and anxiety caused by the weather event and can lessen the impact of the storm’s effects. Sign up for NOAA emergency alerts and warnings, and download our app to stay abreast of power restoration efforts and other important co-op news and information.

While we hope Tennessee doesn’t experience severe storms this summer, we can never predict Mother Nature’s plans. Your local electric co-op recommenda that you act today because there is power in planning. From our co-op family to yours, we hope you have a safe and wonderful summer.

This month is set aside every year as a time to pay special attention to staying safe around electricity — something everyone at your local electric co-op believes in wholeheartedly. By designating May as Electrical Safety Month, the National Safety Council seeks to remind everyone of the hazards associated with electricity and provide tips you can follow to stay safe around it.

With this in mind (and a whole summer full of fun just around the corner), now’s a great time to focus on safety lessons for young people. Consider these tips for kids that can prevent accidental shock or other injuries:

  • Flying a kite is great fun on a breezy day, but keep it far away from power lines. If your kite accidentally comes close to one, drop the kite string or reel immediately. Better to lose your kite than come in contact with electricity, which can travel straight down your kite string to YOU!
  • This next one applies to adults as well: Never fly a drone near power lines. Even “toy” drones can cause an outage if they hit a power line. (They can also cause a downed power line, which is extremely hazardous.) Those shiny “metalized” balloons are another no-no. Balloons of all kinds are best kept well away from power lines.
  • Never play around or climb on those green metal boxes that might be found at locations throughout subdivisions. These pad-mount transformers contain electrical equipment that helps bring underground electricity to your house and your neighbors’ homes.
  • Don’t climb trees that are anywhere near power lines. Even if the branches are just close by, a windy day (plus your added weight) could bend them in such a way as to bring them into contact with a power line. If that happens, the whole tree (with you in it!) could become energized.
  • If you should ever see a downed power line lying on the grass or in the road or a driveway, never EVER get close to it! Let an adult know right away so they can notify your local electric co-op.

These days many of us are spending more time at home and finding new, creative ways to enhance our living space. Tackling do-it-yourself (DIY) projects for the home can be fun and cost-effective, so why not roll up those sleeves and get started! Whether you’re painting the front door with a fresh hue or finally upgrading those patio lights, successfully completing a DIY home project is incredibly satisfying. But many of these projects do not come without risks. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind as you get to work.

  • Start by selecting a designated work area. The amount of space you’ll need will depend on the size and scope of your project, but make sure you have adequate lighting and ventilation (if necessary). Required tools and equipment should be located in your workspace and organized for easy access.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is your friend. We know you’re a pro but investing a few bucks in PPE is essential for most home projects. Stock up on safety goggles, dust masks, ear plugs (or noise reduction ear protectors), gloves and any other kind of protection you’ll need for your project. Remember to wear appropriate clothing and shoes. (Ditch the sandals for this!)
  • Work slowly and clean as you go. When you rush through a DIY project, you’ll likely end up with less desirable results than you intended, or worse, you could make a costly or dangerous mistake. Take your time and remember that you are in control of the project. You should also clean as you go to ensure a safer workspace. Pick up any scrap materials, tools that aren’t in use and any tripping hazards.
  • Be cautious with power tools. Annually, 8% of electrocutions in the U.S. are attributed to improper use of power tools. The Electrical Safety Foundation International offers the following safety tips:
    • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) with every power tool to protect against electrical shock.
    • Never use power tools near live electrical wires or water pipes.
    • Use extreme caution when cutting or drilling into walls where electrical wires or water pipes could be accidentally touched or penetrated.
    • If a power tool trips a safety device while in use, take the tool to a manufacturer-authorized repair center for service.
    • Do not use power tools without the proper guards.
    • When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electrical shock.

Remember, you should only tackle DIY home projects within your skill and comfort level. For projects that require extensive electrical work, we strongly recommend you hire a licensed, qualified electrician for assistance.

To learn more about electrical safety, visit our website at everydaysafe.org.

With nicer weather here and the hot days of summer just a few weeks away, now is a great time to take a look around the outside of your home to identify electrical safety hazards. Winter can be tough on your home’s exterior. It’s better to make repairs now before you and your family begin spending more time outside this summer. Here are a few things to check.

Inspect exterior outlets and switches

Look for visible damage to exterior receptacles and switches. Be on the lookout for discolored receptacles, which could be a sign of faulty wiring. Replace old outlets with GFCI outlets to reduce the risk of electrical shock, and be sure that any exterior outlets have covers to protect them from the elements. For receptacles near lakes, pools or hot tubs, take extra care to be sure that GFCI outlets are used and that equipment is properly grounded. Call an expert if you have any questions.

Check exterior lighting fixtures

Did winter storms damage your exterior light fixtures? Look for visible damage, and replace any bulbs that are not working. Replacing light fixtures can be a DIY job, but it could also be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Consider hiring a professional if you’re not sure.

Clear space around exterior equipment

Be sure that plants and shrubs have not grown too close to heating and cooling equipment, which needs proper clearance for air to circulate properly. Also, be sure that exterior fixtures like electric and gas meters and underground transformers can be easily accessed. Look for vegetation that has grown into overhead power lines. Never trim trees or shrubs near power lines. Contact your local electric co-op for assistance.

Clean vents and filters

Check exterior HVAC equipment for dust and debris on coils and around vents. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean them, or hire a professional. Also be sure that dryer vents are clear of lint or other debris.

These simple tips can ensure that your family is safe when warm weather returns.

Spring officially begins on Saturday, March 20. Along with warmer weather and longer days, spring often brings strong storms to Tennessee. Here are some tips from the American Red Cross to help your family be better prepared for spring weather.

Make a Plan

Develop a plan to help your family respond to disasters. Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play. Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Know where you and your family will shelter during severe weather. Identify a basement, storm shelter or an inner hallway or closet that can provide protection during storms.

Get Educated

Know the difference between storm watches and warnings. A watch means that bad weather is possible. A warning means that bad weather is occurring, and you should seek shelter. Conditions following a storm can be hazardous. Stay away from downed power lines and call your local co-op or 911.

Have a Kit

Take time now to organize the basic supplies you will need during a disaster. Basic kits should include food, water, medicine, a flashlight, battery powered radio and extra batteries, first aid kit, medicine, cell phone and charger. A full list of items to include in your kit can be found at redcross.org.

Prepare for Power Outages

Despite our best efforts, strong storms can create extended power outages. Battery-operated flashlights and lanterns can provide light and are safer than candles. Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. If you plan to use a generator, have an electrician properly install it to keep you, your family and first responders safe.

Tennessee’s electric co-ops work very hard to keep your lights on and minimize interruptions. However, despite our best efforts, weather, car accidents and animals can sometimes create power outages.

Many times, these are brief interruptions that are restored quickly. Other times, widespread damage may make power restoration take much longer. During these times, a backup generator can be a handy tool to have around.

Backup generators come in many sizes — from permanently installed whole-home units to smaller, portable units that can run a few lights. This equipment can provide your family with comfort and convenience during a prolonged power outage. However, if used incorrectly, they can also create a dangerous situation for yourself and others.

Perhaps most importantly, never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This practice puts utility workers, your neighbors and your household at risk of electrocution. If you are interested in powering your whole home, contact a licensed electrician to ensure that proper safety equipment is installed to allow this to be done safely. Some co-ops ask homeowners to contact the co-op to inspect this sort of installation.

Here are a few more tips from the American Red Cross to ensure your backup generator is used safely.

  • Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. Operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure such as under a tarp held up on poles. Do not touch the generator with wet hands.
  • Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outdoors and away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

The energy experts at your local electric co-op will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Every year, workers along the sides of roads are injured or killed when a car crashes into the crew’s site, even though it’s marked with bright cones and warning signs.

There’s an easy way to reduce those incidents that harm police officers and other first responders, road construction workers and utility crews. There’s a slogan to help remind drivers. There’s even a law.

The slogan is “slow down or move over.” It’s good advice and a decent thing to do to keep people safe. It’s also a requirement in all 50 states.

Legislatures first started passing Move Over laws about 25 years ago to reduce the year-after-year statistics of harm to roadside emergency workers. In the past five years, many states, including Tennessee, have started to specifically add electric and other utility projects to their Move Over or Slow Down laws.

It’s an addition that’s welcomed by Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, because we were part of the effort to expand the law to help protect our line crews.

“Protecting line crews is a top priority for Tennessee’s co-ops, and it’s a safety measure everyone can help with,” says Trent Scott, spokesperson for the state’s electric cooperatives.

“Move Over is not only a good law, it’s also the courteous thing to do,” says Scott. “Our crews already perform dangerous work to keep the lights on every day. They deserve a work environment that’s as safe as possible.”

There are slight differences in each state’s Move Over laws, but not so much that you can’t figure out the right thing to do, even if you’re traveling from state to state. Here are the basic requirements:

  • Within 200 feet before and after a work zone, which will be marked with bright signs and marker cones, and often flashing lights, change lanes if there’s more than one lane on your side of road so that there is an empty lane between your vehicle and the roadside crew.
  • If it’s not possible or safe to change lanes, slow down. Many states specify slowing down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit if it’s 25 mph or more. Yes, that means if the posted speed limit is 25 mph, slow down to 5 mph.
  • Drivers must obey all traffic directions posted as part of the worksite.
  • Keep control of your car—yes, that’s a requirement in many Move Over laws. And yes, it is more of a general guidance than a rule for a specific speed. It means you need to pay attention and respond to weather conditions—heavy rain or a slick road might mean you’re required to slow down even more than 20 mph. And no texting, fiddling with the radio or other distractions.
  • Penalties for violating those requirements range from $100 to $2,000, or loss of your driver’s license.

A list summarizing each state’s law can be found on the AAA web site.

Electric utility crews are special cases to watch out for. A study of utility worksite accidents found that the relatively temporary nature of power line repairs could surprise motorists. A roadside construction operation might close a lane for days or weeks, giving time for people familiar with the area to anticipate the changed traffic pattern. Utility work, however, can start and finish in a few hours, possibly raising risks with drivers who might think they know the road ahead.

Another risk to watch for is when worksites are being put up or taken down. Roadside accidents can happen as crews are setting up signs and traffic cones.

My father-in-law used to tell his daughter every time they parted, “Drive all the time.” What he meant was that she should pay attention, and it’s good advice for all of us.

Don’t drive distracted. Drive according to the conditions of the road. Be courteous to roadside work crews. Watch the signs and obey them. And certainly, follow laws like Move Over or Slow Down. It’s good advice that could save a life.

Learn more at moveovertennessee.org.

The holiday season is special because it’s a time when families and friends gather to share meals, gifts, love and laughter. But the season also comes with the need to take extra precautions so that the holidays don’t turn tragic. 

Holiday lighting and decor help add to the festive atmosphere and brighten up cold winter nights, but they require some extra care. 

  • When you pull your holiday lights out of storage each year, be sure to check the cords and plugs for any cracks or other damage. If there are any bare or frayed wires, discard the entire cord. Damaged wires create a significant hazard for electric shock and fires. 
  • Make sure all your lights work, and connect the strands before stringing them on your tree, house or elsewhere. Don’t adjust the strings while plugged in once they are in place. Also make sure they have been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (look for a UL label). 
  • If you are using lights outdoors, make sure they are rated for outdoor use. Use a three-prong, grounded extension cord to connect them. Two-prong extension cords are for indoor use only; never use them outdoors. 
  • Do not leave lights on and plugged in when you go to sleep or leave home. 
  • LED lights are a better option because of their longevity as well as the fact they burn much cooler than other types of lights. Make sure the bulbs are not resting directly on tree branches or other surfaces. 
  • If you have a live tree, be sure to keep it watered so it doesn’t dry out and become an increased risk for fire. If you choose an artificial tree, make sure it is rated as flame-resistant. 
  • If you have pets or small children, make sure cords and easily ingestible decorations are out of their reach. 
  • Do not place cords under rugs or doors, and don’t run them through windows.  
  • Do not overload outlets or circuits.  

By adhering to these safety tips, you’ll help ensure your holiday season is as safe as it is festive. 

Nonprofits need help during this time when so many would-be volunteers are staying home instead of helping out.
If you have the volunteer spirit during the holidays and beyond, consider pitching in—safely. Here are five ideas:

Donate. Chances are, you’re spending some of your at-home time organizing closets and cleaning the basement or garage. Sort through your junk before having it hauled away to discover hidden treasures that you don’t want but that are in good shape and might be useful to others.

Most charities have bins for dropping off donations so you won’t come into contact with other people.

Organize a food drive. Set up a plastic bin on your porch and encourage your neighbors to fill it with nonperishable grocery items like soup, pasta, peanut butter and cereal. Every time it’s full, haul it to a local food bank that has a contactless system for accepting donations.

Visit a neighbor. If someone in your neighborhood is older or can’t get to the store, ask for a shopping list the next time you’re heading out for yourself. You can drop the items off on the neighbor’s porch instead of handing them off in person.

Take phone calls. You can volunteer at a crisis helpline from the safety of your home—via telephone. Many crisis centers are conducting virtual training for volunteers and routine calls to their home or mobile numbers.

The kitchen is often the heart of the home, where we cook for ourselves, our families and our friends. Lots of wonderful childhood memories are tied to the kitchen and the tastes and scents of favorite dishes.

But kitchens are also full of potential hazards, electrical and otherwise. Like bathrooms, there is the possibility in a kitchen for water and electricity to meet with deadly consequences. Danger from fire, sharp objects such as knives, and hazardous chemicals also require preventive measures.

Here are some tips to keep your family safe in the kitchen.

Electrical safety

  • Make sure the outlets in your kitchen are outfitted with GFCIs (ground-fault circuit interrupters), which are designed to trip a fast-acting circuit breaker if there is a short or potential for a person to become a path to the ground, resulting in electric shock.
  • Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces, and make sure there is plenty of space around electrical outlets.
  • Unplug toasters, toaster ovens, mixers, coffeemakers and other countertop appliances when not in use.
  • If you experience even a slight shock from an appliance, immediately turn off the circuit breaker to that appliance, then unplug it and don’t use it again until it has been checked by a certified electrician.
  • Keep appliances well away from the sink. The last thing you want is for something to get wet or get knocked into a sink full of water.

Fire safety

  • Keep your oven, stovetop, toaster, coffeemakers and other appliances clean to prevent grease and other types of fires.
  • Keep combustibles — including includes napkins, paper towels, takeout containers, pizza boxes, potholders and similar items — away from your stovetop, toaster and other appliances that heat up.
  • Keep an up-to-date fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it. Never use water to try to put out an electrical fire.
  • Make sure there is enough room behind your refrigerator (and deep freezer, if you have one) for air to circulate, and vacuum the coils every three months to prevent dust buildup that can lead to overheating and possible fire.

Other safety tips

  • Keep knives and other sharp objects in blocks or drawers.
  • If you have children or pets, make sure knives are not accessible to little hands. Secure household cleaners, and keep the number for poison control posted on your refrigerator just in case it’s needed.

Adhering to these safety tips will keep your kitchen a place of happy memories throughout the holiday season.

Each year we become the owners of more and more items that require electricity. Whether it’s large TVs, computers or chargers for our phones, we must plug these items in to use or charge them. Frequently our needs outnumber the available electrical outlets, especially in older homes that have fewer outlets.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind homeowners to resist the temptation to use multiple extension cords and power strips because overloading outlets can lead to a fire.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 5,300 residential fires each year are caused by overloaded outlets or circuits. Many times multiple outlets – or even entire rooms – can be on a single circuit. Even if you are using multiple outlets, you can still experience issues if all of the outlets are fed by the same circuit. Circuits should be marked on the breakers in your breaker box. If your breakers are not labeled, you can turn your them off one by one to identify which outlets, appliances or household systems are affected. If this doesn’t work, you should contact an electrician for assistance.

How do you determine how much is too much? Grab your calculator.

First, calculate the total wattage off all the items that are powered by a single circuit – most electronics will be labeled. Divide this combined wattage by the voltage of the circuit (120 volts is typical for most homes). The result will be the amount of amps you’re using on the circuit.

Go back to your breaker box to see what size breaker is used for the circuit – most will be 15 or 20 amps. You should only use about 80 percent of the available amperage on a circuit. If you are above 80 percent, consider moving some of your devices to other circuits.

Of those 5,300 home fires caused by overloaded outlets and circuits each year, about 2,000 occur during the holidays. You may be surprised how much energy Christmas trees, lights and other electrical holiday decor can consume. Be sure to be aware of the extra wattage you’re adding and take the necessary precautions.

Being in an automobile accident is scary, especially if when you look out the car window and see a downed utility pole or power lines. In the aftermath of an accident, your instinct may be to get out of the car in order to distance yourself from further potential harm, to seek help or to check on others involved in the accident. But if there is a downed pole or lines, you need to resist that urge. The safest place is actually inside the car until utility and rescue crews arrive and ensure you can exit the car safely.

Damaged power lines may still be electrified even if you can’t see visible signs such as arcing or sparks. Always assume that power lines are energized.

Even if the lines are not touching your vehicle, you could be putting your life in danger by stepping out of the car. Despite surviving the accident, the moment your foot hits the ground you can become the path to ground for a lethal flow of electricity.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or someone else has hit a power pole and lines are down, the best thing to do is to stay in your vehicle and call 911. If you see well-meaning people who aren’t first-responders or utility workers approaching the vehicle, tell them to stay away and that you’ve called for help.

Despite what you see in TV car accidents, fires following a crash are rare, but they sometimes occur. If the car is on fire, you will need to exit the vehicle quickly – and safely. In these situations, experts recommend jumping clear of the car while making certain you don’t touch it and the ground at the same time. To help prevent accidental contact with the vehicle after you leave it, remove any loose clothing before opening the door. Open the door by the handle without touching the door itself. Stand with your feet together on the frame, tuck your hands and elbows in close to your chest and stomach, then hop off to a spot free of power lines. To prevent falling back against the vehicle or onto downed lines, know your limitations and don’t try to jump too far at once.

Once you are on the ground, continue to hop away keeping your feet together or shuffle your feet in slow, short strides. This sounds odd but it minimizes the risk of a voltage difference between your feet that could be dangerous under the right circumstances. Continue doing this until you are at least 20-30 feet away from the burning vehicle.

Electricity provides us with safety, convenience and connection, but it can also be dangerous. Our crews are trained to be everyday safe – to make smart choices around energy, and we want to help your family do the same. Visit everydaysafe.org for more electrical safety tips.

Get your power outage emergency kit ready now

Power outages can occur at any time of the year, whether a result of ice on power lines in the winter, spring storms that bring down trees on lines, car crashes that break poles or an errant squirrel that meets an untimely end. Power at the flick of a switch is something we take for granted, and we may be surprised how much our daily lives depend on a steady flow of electricity if the power goes out.

It’s always a good plan to have an emergency preparedness kit on hand, stocked with necessities that will help you make it through an extended power outage as safely and comfortably as possible. Especially if you know ahead of time that a power outage may be coming your way, such as when ice storms or tornadoes are predicted, don’t wait until the last minute to stock up on the essentials.

Some items to consider are water for drinking, cooking and sanitary needs; food that doesn’t need to be cooked or that can be prepared on a camp stove or grill outside with proper ventilation; a manual can opener; an adequate supply of necessary medications and first aid supplies; flashlights with batteries; candles and matches (keeping in mind that you will need to practice the necessary safety precautions when using open flames); plenty of warm clothing, coverings and perhaps sleeping bags if it’s winter; and radios or TVs that are battery powered or powered by other means such as solar or hand crank. It is also important to keep your cell phones and power banks charged.

If you have a back-up generator, be sure that it is installed and operated properly. For details on how to operate a generator safely, read the guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Energy: energy.gov/ceser/activities/energy-security/emergency-preparedness/using-portableemergency-generators-safely

One item you might not think of but that will be handy to have at the ready is the manufacturer’s instructions on how to open your garage door manually. While it’s understandable to want to protect your vehicle from damaging weather, you will also need to be able to get the car out if an emergency arises. Also, make sure your vehicle’s gas tank is full in advance.

For more suggestions of items to include in an emergency preparedness kit, check out the listing from the American Red Cross at redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html, or contact your local electric cooperative.

Each year, electrical malfunctions account for thousands of home fires, injuries, death and property damage. The average American home was built in 1977, and many existing homes simply can’t handle the demands of today’s electrical appliances and devices. Keep safety in mind with these helpful tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

Learn the warning signs of an overloaded electrical system:

  • Frequent tripping of circuit breakers or blowing of fuses
  • Dimming of lights when other devices are tuned on
  • Buzzing sound from switches or outlets
  • Discolored outlets
  • Appliances that seem underpowered

How to avoid overloading circuits:

  • Label your circuit breakers to understand the different circuits in your home.
  • Have your home inspected by a qualified electrician if older than 40 years or if you’ve had a major appliance installed.
  • Have a qualified electrician install new circuits for high energy use devices.
  • Reduce your electrical load by using energy efficient appliances and lighting.

Working from home? Follow these electrical safety tips to keep you and your home safe from electrical hazards.

  • Avoid overloading outlets.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use to save energy and minimize the risk of shock or fire.
  • Regularly inspect electrical cords and extension cords for damage.
  • Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis.
  • Never plug a space heater or fan into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Never run cords under rugs, carpets, doors or windows.
  • Make sure cords do not become tripping hazards.
  • Keep papers and other potential combustibles at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Make sure you use proper wattage for lamps and lighting.
  • Make sure your home as smoke alarms. Test them monthly, change batteries annually and replace the unit every 10 years.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Electrical Safety Month, and we want to challenge you to take a look around your home to identify and correct potential safety hazards.

Remember that every electrical device has a purpose and a service lifespan. While we can extend their operations with maintenance and care, none of them are designed to last or work forever. When electricity is involved, failures can present electrical hazards that might be avoided with periodic inspections.

Here are a few places to start.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. Outdoor outlets or those in potentially damp locations in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room often include GFCI features. They are designed to sense abnormal current flows, breaking the circuit to prevent potential electric shocks from devices plugged into the outlets. The average GFCI outlet is designed to last about 10 years, but in areas prone to electrical storms or power surges, they can wear out in five years or less. Check them frequently by pressing the red test button. Make sure you hit the black reset button when you are done. Contact a licensed electrician to replace any failing GFCI outlets.

Loose or Damaged Outlets or Switches. Unstable electrical outlets or wall switches with signs of heat damage or discoloration can offer early warnings of potential shock or electrical fire hazards. Loose connections can allow electrical current arcing. If you see these warning signs, it may be time to contact an electrician.

Surge Protectors. Power strips with surge protectors can help safeguard expensive equipment like televisions, home entertainment systems and computer components from power spikes. Voltage spikes are measured in joules, and surge protectors are rated for the number of joules they can effectively absorb. That means if your surge protector is rated at 1,000 joules, it should be replaced when it hits or passes that limit. When the limit is reached, protection stops, and you’re left with a basic power strip.

Some surge protectors include indicator lights that flicker to warn you when they’ve stopped working as designed, but many do not. If your electrical system takes a major hit, or if you don’t remember when you bought your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.

Extension Cords. If you use extension cords regularly to connect devices and equipment to your wall outlets, you may live in an underwired home. With a growing number of electrical devices connecting your family to the electricity you get from CO-OP NAME, having enough outlets in just the right spots can be challenging. Remember, extension cords are designed for temporary, occasional or periodic use.

If an extension cord gets noticeably warm when in use, it could be undersized for the intended use. If it shows any signs of frayed, cracked or heat-damaged insulation, it should be replaced. If the grounding prong is missing, crimped or loose, a grounded cord will not provide the protection designed into its performance. And always make sure that extension cords used in outdoor or potentially damp locations are rated for exterior use.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 51,000 electrical fires are reported each year in the United States, causing more than $1.3 billion in annual property damage.

Electricity is an essential necessity for modern living, and Volunteer State electric co-ops are committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable power to all of our members. We hope you’ll keep these electrical safety tips in mind so that you can note any potential hazards before damage occurs.

Do you have questions about electrical safety? Contact your local electric co-op, and we will do our best to answer your questions. You can visit everydaysafe.org for more safety tips.

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Electricity plays a vital role in our lives, from powering home appliances and cellphones to keeping factories and hospitals running. While electricity is incredibly useful, it can be dangerous.

May is National Electrical Safety Month. This is a great time to look around your home to identify potential safety hazards.

May is also the time of year that electric co-op crews pay a little more attention to the weather. Spring brings warmer temperatures and blooming flowers, but it also brings an increase in the possibility of severe weather here in Tennessee.

Please consider these tips to keep your family safe when severe weather threatens.

Be prepared. Don’t allow yourself to be caught off-guard. Have a way to receive alerts when they are issued – either a NOAA Weather Radio or a cell phone that receives alerts. Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely. Have a place prepared for you and your family to shelter when the need arises – you don’t want to empty out a closet when time is of the essence. An emergency kit including a radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit and medicine should also be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Act quickly. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If a watch is issued, pay attention. If a warning is issued, act immediately. Take shelter in a substantial building or in an interior closet. Get out of mobile homes that may blow over in high winds. Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Do not take a bath or use plumbing. If you are driving, exit the road and find a safe place to ride out the storm.

Be smart after the storm. Be aware of hazards and debris left by the storm. Never touch downed power lines or anything in contact with downed lines. If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle to reduce the risk of fires or explosions. Be sure your family is safe and then look for opportunities to help friends and neighbors.

Regardless of what the weather brings, electric co-op crews are prepared to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take seriously our responsibility to keep the power on and restore service quickly.

Planning to put in a new pool before the hot days of summer arrive? Or maybe you’ll beautify your yard with some pretty flowering trees or shrubbery? Before you dig any holes or excavate part of your yard, be sure to take an important safety step in calling 811. This is imperative for small jobs such as installing a new mailbox as well as larger ones such as building new fencing or a deck because the depth of utility lines varies. You don’t want to be the neighbor who inadvertently knocks out utility service to your entire neighborhood, not to mention potentially causing harm to yourself or your family.

Tennessee 811 is a nonprofit organization that helps homeowners and contractors locate underground utility lines so that digging can proceed safely. With one call, you can notify the owners of various underground utility lines who, within a few days, will mark the locations of the lines. Calling is required by law. If you dig without calling and damage utility lines, fines can be assessed and repair costs will come out of your pocket.

Keep in mind that private utility lines will not be covered by a call to Tennessee 811. Examples of private lines are water and sewer lines that run from your meter to your house. You might need to contact your local or city government, tax assessor or registrar of deeds to help locate these lines. Also not covered are customer-owned lines such as those for invisible fencing, outdoor lighting and irrigation. Tennessee 811 maintains a list of private locators. For a fee, these professionals can help you locate these underground lines.

The call center for Tennessee 811 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 811 or 1-800-351-1111 or via an online e-ticket program at tenn811.com. The website also has an FAQ section to answer more specific questions about the process and what to expect.

For many of us, it is hard to beat the feeling being outside and enjoying the first warm day of Spring. Whether you are just enjoying a walk around the yard or grabbing some tools to complete some project that you put off all winter, be sure that you keep these springtime electrical safety tips in mind.

Be aware of overhead power lines. Don’t fly kites or drones anywhere near electric lines or substations. Be sure to keep ladders a safe distance from electric wires while cleaning gutters or completing other spring chores. Materials, tools and all parts of your body should always stay at least 15 feet away from electric lines.

Call before you dig. Call 811 before digging in your yard. Even if it is something as simple as planting a tree, it is important to know what is below the ground. A quick phone call could save your life and your pocket book.

Trees and electric lines don’t mix. Before trimming trees or allowing kids to play in trees or bushes, make certain that there are no electric lines hidden in the leaves and branches.

Check your cords. Before using extension cords or electric tools, check for frayed cords, damaged plugs and other wear. Don’t use damaged equipment until it has been repaired.

Energy and water makes a dangerous combination. Keep extension cords and other electrical equipment away from pools, fountains or ponds. Be sure that sprinklers and irrigation equipment do not spray water onto power lines or other electrical equipment.

If you have questions about electric equipment on your property or how to be safe around power lines, contact your local electric co-op. We want you and your family to be everyday safe.

It’s no surprise that winter months bring increased potential for fire risks and electrical safety hazards. This makes sense because during the coldest months, consumers are using additional electrical devices and appliances, like space heaters, electric blankets and portable generators.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 47,700 home fires occur each year in the U.S. due to electrical failure or malfunction. These fires result in 418 deaths, 1,570 injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage annually. This winter, safeguard your loved ones and your home with these electrical safety tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

  1. Don’t overload outlets. Overloaded outlets are a major cause of residential fires. Avoid using extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliance connections––they should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. If you’re relying heavily on extension cords in general, you may need additional outlets to address your needs. Contact a qualified electrician to inspect your home and add new outlets.
  2. Never leave space heaters unattended. If you’re using a space heater, turn if off before leaving the room. Make sure heaters are placed at least three feet away from flammable items. It should also be noted that space heaters take a toll on your energy bills. If you’re using them throughout your home, it may be time to upgrade your home heating system.
  3. Inspect heating pads and electric blankets. These items cause nearly 500 fires every year. Electric blankets that are more than 10 years old create additional risks for a fire hazard. Inspect your electric blankets and heating pads – look for dark, charred or frayed spots, and make sure the electrical cord is not damaged. Do not place any items on top of a heating pad or electric blanket, and never fold them when in use.
  4. Use portable generators safely. Unfortunately, winter storms can cause prolonged power outages, which means many consumers will use portable generators to power their homes. Never connect a standby generator into your home’s electrical system. For portable generators, plug appliances directly into the outlet provided on the generator. Start the generator first, before you plug in appliances. Run it in a well-ventilated area outside your home. The carbon monoxide it generates is deadly, so keep it away from your garage, doors, windows and vents.

NASHVILLE – If you’re driving on Tennessee roads, what should you do if you approach a utility vehicle stopped on the shoulder with its flashing lights activated? According to the state’s Move Over law, motorists must slow down or move over, or you could be fined for not complying.

Tennessee’s “Move Over” law was passed in 2006 to protect first responders like police officers, firefighters and paramedics. In 2011, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives led a coalition to revise the state’s move over law to include utility workers as well.

The requirements of Tennessee’s move over law are simple. On a four lane road, if safety and traffic conditions allow, a driver approaching a utility vehicle with flashing lights should move into the far lane. On a two lane road or when changing lanes is not possible, a driver should reduce their speed.

Electric co-op vehicles aren’t the only utility vehicles covered; service vehicles used by municipal electric systems, telephone companies and utility districts are also protected by the law.

Electric lineworkers face many dangers – high voltage, heights and extreme weather conditions. Despite these challenges, one of the most dangerous parts of their job is working alongside busy roadways, often only feet away from passing cars

“We have had cars come through at high rates of speed, hitting the cones we have set up and clipping the outriggers that we have down to support the trucks,” says Greg Bryant, line foreman for Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, Tenn. “I think people care, they just don’t pay attention like they should.”

“When we are in the bucket or up a pole, we can clearly see into passing cars, and it is shocking how many drivers are looking at their phones,” says Bryant, who shares this important tip. “Put the phone down and pay attention. Lives are on the line.”

“July marks the 8th anniversary of the expansion of the law, but too many drivers either don’t know about it or simply don’t care,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Associaiton. “Our lineworkers perform an important job for our community. Changing lanes or slowing down to give them a little space is a simple courtesy that could save a life.”

More information about the law is available at moveovertennessee.org.