By Kate Voss:
In 1752, American inventor and colonial patriot Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning was electrical by flying a kite during a thunderstorm. He strung a metal key onto the string of a kite and, when electricity flowed from the storm clouds through the string, was met with an electric shock! Mr. Franklin may have made a very important scientific discovery, but he was very lucky not have been seriously injured during his famous experiment.
Today we harness the energy in electricity every day when we turn on our lights, heat and cool our homes, charge our phones, and use the Internet. It’s all around us, which makes forgetting electricity is there at all, easy. But it’s important to remember that, because our bodies are made up of mostly water — and water is an ideal conductor for electricity — you don’t EVER want to be in the path of an electric current. The electricity generated from power plants and the electricity in a bolt of lightning is strong enough to severely injure or kill you.
The combination of curious children and outdoor summer fun can lead to serious electrical accidents if parents aren’t careful. Common–sense rules for behavior around powerlines, electrical equipment and other hazards should be taught to everyone before a storm hits or an emergency occurs. Below are a few ideas for helping everyone stay safe and enjoy their summer vacation.
Simply being familiar with the location of power lines is a major component of summertime electrical safety. In the summer, tree leaves may make power lines less visible, especially for children. It’s a parent’s job to talk with children about overhead lines and to point them out if they’re difficult to spot. Parents should also remind children that any power line, even one that’s lying on the ground, must be considered charged and dangerous.
Watch for Water:
It’s critical to remember that water and electricity do not mix! Appliances, extension cords, toys and tools that require electrical power should be used in areas without standing water or other sources of moisture. Holding phones, electronic games, tablets or any other mobile device while standing or sitting in a pool, bathtub or lake is risky (for you and your phone!), so wait until you’ve dried off to play.
Watch What You Touch:
Most people already know not to come in direct contact with an electrical wire, but you don’t have to actually touch a wire yourself to be electrocuted. Coming in contact with an object that’s also touching a power line can create a route for electricity to travel into your body. Even standing close to a live power line puts an individual at risk due to the potential of an electrical arc from the line.
Most parents are very conscious of electrical cords and outlets in the home, but accidental electrical shock can still occur if wall sockets are left unguarded for children to play with. According to Direct Energy, an estimated 86% of yearly reported electrical injuries occur in children aged 1- 4. Taking the time to childproof wall outlets, electrical cording, extension cords and other small appliances is a highly effective preventative step for avoiding future injuries.
Tree climbing is a childhood rite of passage, but climbing a tree that’s located too close to power lines should be avoided at all costs. Similarly, climbing a power pole may look like a fun challenge for kids, but doing so can put a child in direct contact with a live electrical wire. The same goes for those large metal transformer boxes. While the boxes are supposed to house electrical components that are safely contained, there’s no reason to tempt fate by climbing or playing on them. If flying a kite, model airplane or drone is on your family’s to-do list this summer, find a location that is free of overhead power lines and trees!
Know Who You’re Gonna Call:
If a friend or family member is electrocuted, the first impulse may be to pull them free from the live wire. However, this is a grave mistake because the act of touching the victim will cause the rescuer also to be electrocuted. The safest course of action when a family member, friend or pet has come in contact with a live electrical wire is to call 911 immediately. Help also should be sought if balloons, kites and other objects become ensnared in an overhead line. Removing such items is best left to the professionals at your local electric utility company.
For additional resources and educational information, the Electrical Safety Foundation International website has a great array of material for parents. Keeping the above information in mind will ensure that fun times spent outdoorswon’t turn into tragedy for your family this summer.
Kate Makela is a longtime writer (and blogger!) from the Midwest. Currently living in Chicago, IL, she is a passionate environmental advocate and organic gardener. Her goal this summer is to complete Master Gardener certification training and finish her first triathlon.