Below are some safety tips to help you at home or at your workplace.
Electrical Safety At Home
What To Do If the Lights Go Out
If your entire house or apartment is without electricity, check the neighborhood to see if there is a power outage. If neighbors’ windows are dark, a call to Willmar Municipal Utilities will help us restore service as quickly as possible. If you have difficulty getting through, we are probably receiving a large volume of calls and may already know about your outage.
If electricity is out in only your house or part of your house, then chances are a fuse has blown or a circuit breaker has shut off because of an overload or a short circuit. To get service again, you’ll need to replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker in your electric switch box by turning it completely off, then on.
Turning Your Electricity On and Off
Know where your home’s main electric switch is, so you can turn off the electric supply to your entire home quickly in case of emergency.
- Know where your fuse box or circuit-breaker box is located.
- Know the correct sizes of any fuses needed in your home and keep spares on hand. Blown fuses must be replaced, not repaired. Do not replace a fuse with one of higher amperage.
- If a fuse blows, disconnect or turn off the appliance(s) that may have caused the problem.
- Shut off the main electric switch before replacing a fuse.
- Know how to reset a circuit breaker. After turning off or unplugging appliances on the circuit, push the switch firmly to the off position, then back on. If the overloads is cleared, the electricity will come back on.
- If your circuit breakers trip off repeatedly, there could be a problem with the appliance(s) on that circuit. If the appliances are unplugged but the circuit breaker trips off again, call an electrician.
Lighting Your Home
Good lighting, both inside and outside your home, not only helps avoid accidents but increases your home security, makes household tasks easier and makes it easier for emergency personnel to find your home.
- Direct lighting over any stairs increases safety. Contrasting colors between the floor and first step will help you see the difference in height.
- With two-way switches at the top and bottom of stairways, you’ll always be able to turn on the light from either end.
- Good lighting on steps and stairways helps prevent slips and falls.
- Be sure there’s enough light to see who is at your door.
- Address markers should be well-lighted and visible from the street.
- When changing light bulbs, never exceed the wattage rating for the fixture. Check for a sticker on the base of the lamp socket.
- Turn off fixtures and light switches before replacing bulbs. If you aren’t sure whether the lamp is on or off, unplug it first.
- Use long-life or fluorescent bulbs where access is difficult. Fluorescent bulbs last longest and also save energy.
- Make sure your kitchen counters and other work areas are well lighted for safety.
No one can predict natural disasters, but you can reduce the possibility of damage and injury by observing these safety measures.
- Do not store or use gasoline, paint or other flammable substances in the same area as any gas appliance such as a water heater or other source of flame.
- Know where the shut-off valves of all your appliances are located, as well as the shut-offs for your household gas and electric services.
- Do not locate pools and spas under electric lines.
Don’t Become a Victim. Stay Calm.
In an emergency, it’s easy to panic. Loud noises, roaring wind and flashes of lightning can seem terrifying and threatening. But the real danger may be more subtle—a gas leak, or electricity from a severed power line.
Electric appliances and tools
- Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIS) in any area where whatever is plugged into them might come into contact with water
- If a plugged-in appliance falls into water, NEVER pull it out or unplug it, even if it’s turned off, without first turning off the power source at the main electrical panel.
- On computers and entertainment equipment, use a surge protector that bears the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency. Also plug in your modem to this surge protector.
- Power tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass, or in any type of wet conditions. Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed cords, broken plugs, and cracked or broken housings.
- If you use a standby generator, be sure it’s installed and wired properly. Never connect a generator directly to your main electric panel. Without the correct safety mechanisms, power from the generator could flow onto the power line and injure you or a utility line worker.
Cords, plugs, and outlets
- Make sure extension cords used outdoors are rated for outdoor use. A red UL label indicates that they are suitable for outdoor and indoor use.
- Discard decorations with worn or frayed electrical cords, damaged plugs, or loose connections.
- Make sure all unused outlets that are accessible to small children have safety covers.
- Make sure your plugs fit your outlets. Never remove the ground pin (third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet. This could lead to electric shock.
Electric Line Safety
Overhead Electric Lines
Electrical energy constantly seeks a path to the ground. If you touch an uninsulated line with an object or your body, you become this path. The result can be severe injury or death. When you are working around electric overhead lines, follow these rules:
- Watch where you are going.
- Stay clear.
- Don’t touch.
- Keep all machinery, equipment, materials, scaffolding tools, boat masts, fruit-picking poles, antennas, satellite dishes, pool skimmers handles, metal ladders and people, etc. at least 10 feet away from the lines. If it looks like they’ll be in your way, call us at 320-235-4422. Depending on the nature of your job, we may be able to turn off the electricity, cover the lines, or even move them while you complete your work.
- Do not remove anything caught in electric lines — not even an animal. Instead, call Willmar Municipal Utilities immediately at 320-235-4422.
Underground Electric Lines
Hazards you don’t see, like underground electric lines, are easy to ignore or forget. Yet the danger is just as great. Digging, drilling or blasting can damage these underground lines and cause electrocution or fire.
To avoid accident, simply call Gopher State One-Call at 1-507-252-1166, or 811. They’ll send someone to your site to show you exactly where our lines are buried. Best of all, this service is free.
Fallen Electric Lines
Fallen electric lines are extremely dangerous.
Report any downed lines to Willmar Municipal Utilities immediately by calling 320-235-4422. Never touch a downed line or anyone in contact with the line. Always assume a downed line is live.
Beware of a downed electric line touching a vehicle. Stay clear of the vehicle and the electric line. If an electric line touches your vehicle while you are inside, remain calm and follow these directions:
- If you can do so safely, stay inside the vehicle until emergency help arrives.
- Warn others to stay away from the vehicle and direct them to call Willmar Municipal Utilities.
- If you must get out of the vehicle for safety reasons, jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
Kite and Balloon Safety
Don’t fly kites or metallic or mylar balloons near electric lines. They can cause power outages and can injure you and others including Willmar Municipal Utilities employees working on equipment. Follow the guidelines below to make kite and balloon flying safe for you and your family:
- Never fly kites near electric lines. If your kite gets caught in an electric line, call Willmar Municipal Utilities immediately at 320-235-4422 to report the problem. NEVER try to remove anything caught in electric lines.
- Never fly kites near TV and radio antennas.
- Never cross a street or road while flying a kite.
- Never fly kites in the rain or during an electric storm.
- Make sure that kite string, wood, paper or other kite materials are completely dry.
- Never use a kite made with wire or metallic materials, including mylar.
Call Before You Dig
Calling Gopher State One Call (GSOC) 48 hours in advance of digging is important in protecting you and your family from the dangers associated with digging near buried utility lines. There is no charge for this service.
To file a Locate Request, and have the underground utilities marked call Gopher State One Call at 1-800-252-1166 Statewide or visit their website at http://www.gopherstateonecall.org. You can also call the national One Call Center at 811 or visit their One Call 811 website at http://www.call811.com (both will leave WMU’s website).
What is Gopher State One Call (GSOC)?
GSOC is the state-wide notification center for excavation in Minnesota.
What Does this Service Cost?
There is no cost for the service that GSOC provides, GSOC is a non-profit organization and is supported by all of the underground utility operators in Minnesota.
When Should A Call Be Made?
A call to GSOC should be made at least 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) prior to the start of the digging. The GSOC office hours are Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
How Does GSOC Work?
GSOC takes information from callers who are digging, processes it in a computer, and notifies underground utility operators who will send out personnel to mark the location of their lines. The Color Code for marking underground utility lines are listed below. The underground utility owners will mark the location of the underground service with flags or paint.
After the utilities are notified, they will determine the need to locate and mark their facilities near the proposed site. By law, underground utility operators must mark their utilities within 48 hours. You cannot dig until the 48-hour time frame has elapsed.
The utility owners are required to mark only their buried facilities. If any private utilities are buried in the area, (power lines to garages, gas grill or LP lines, lawn sprinkler systems, invisible fences, etc.) you must locate them or hire a private contractor to perform this service. Check your local phone directory under “Utilities-Locating” or your local utility company may recommend someone to do this for you.
Who Should Call?
Anyone digging in Minnesota must call before digging if using power equipment. Even when hand-digging, you are encouraged to call to determine the location of underground utilities.
The person who is doing the work is responsible for calling GSOC. If the homeowner does the excavation work, the homeowner is responsible for calling GSOC. If the owner contracts with a professional excavator to do the excavation (tree planting, backhoe excavation, power auguring of post holes, etc.)then the professional excavator is responsible for calling GSOC.
What Should Be Done Before The Call?
Look up the legal description for the property and mark the excavation site in White Wooden, white stakes or white paint should be used to outline the proposed excavation area. If there are no white markings indicating the proposed work site, the utility operators may mark the entire lot.
What Types Of Questions Will Be Asked?
GSOC answering attendants will ask information about the work site. Some of the questions include: what type of work are you doing, where is the work site located, how long will the work take, what is the legal description of the site?
The legal description is a very important part of information. This information may be obtained from property tax statements. If the legal information is not provided, GSOC answering attendants must delay you while they consult maps and research the area. Once the call is complete, a ticket number will be issued. This ticket number is very important and should be kept until the work is completed in case any questions arise. It also serves as a proof that the one-call center was notified.
What Happens After The Call?
Once the underground utilities are notified, it is their job to determine whether they need to locate their underground utilities near the proposed dig site. Remember, private utilities may not be marked by any utility.
Utility operators will mark the location of their own underground utilities on the lot with the previously mentioned color codes.
If the dig site has been marked with white stakes, the utilities will mark that area. If white stakes are not used, they may mark the entire lot.
What Should Be Done After The Area Is Marked?
After the underground utilities have been marked and the 48 hour time frame has elapsed, the excavation work may commence.
Once the digging has begun, a minimum clearance of two(2) feet (side to side) between a marked and unexposed underground utility and the cutting edge or point of any power equipment must be kept. If excavation is required within two (2) feet of any marking, the excavation should be performed very carefully with hand tools.
If there has been any damage to an underground utility or if there is a suspicion of damage, it is your responsibility to immediately notify the underground utility directly.
In Case of Emergency….
If you damage a natural gas line and gas is released, evacuate the area immediately and call 911. This is required by law.
In the event that you smell natural gas, damage an underground facility or witness a damaged underground facility, encounter a downed power line or come across any situation that you feel may cause imminent danger, please call 911 or contact the utility company directly.
- Keep one or more fire extinguishers in your home and be sure everyone knows where to find them.
- Be sure to keep an extinguisher in risk areas such as the kitchen and workshop, and know how to use it. Have them checked annually.
- Be sure smoke alarms are installed throughout your home. (Replace them every 10 years.)
- Change your smoke alarm batteries regularly. Many people use the switch to and from daylight savings time as a reminder to change batteries.
- Know what to do in case of a grease or electric fire. Use baking soda, or if a pan is on fire, smother the flames with a lid.
- Replace outlets in which plugs fit loosely. Worn outlets can overheat and lead to fire.
- Never use water to put out a fire on your stove.
- Securely screw in light bulbs because loose bulbs can overheat.
- Don’t run cords under rugs or rest furniture on them. They may be damaged or overheat.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is the result of incomplete combustion of almost any type of fuel. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating. Carbon Monoxide is sometimes called The Silent Killer because when it enters the blood stream it prevents the blood from absorbing oxygen. When oxygen deficient blood reaches the heart and brain, it can damage those organs and cause illness or even death.
Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
Your home can show signs of carbon monoxide inside such as
- Unusually high humidity
- Heavy condensation on walls and windows
- Soot or water collecting near a burner or vent
What are the symptoms?
The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu but with-out a fever. Symptoms will disappear when a person is exposed to fresh air. Symptoms include the following
- Mild Exposure
- Slight headache
- Blurred vision
- Medium Exposure
- Severe headache
- Rapid heart rate
- Severe Exposure
- Cardiac/respiratory failure
- Even Death
Treatment can include exposure to fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure may require medical attention.
What Should I Do?
- If you are experiencing symptoms, leave your home and get to fresh air
- Ventilate the area, open doors and windows
- Shut off appliances that are effected
- If an appliance is found to be producing CO, discontinue using it until necessary repairs have been made
- Call 911 if necessary
How Do I Prevent Carbon Monoxide?
- Never operate an automobile, gas grill, lawn mower or any type of combustible engine inside your attached garage or your home
- Have your gas appliances checked by a qualified technician regularly
- Make sure your fresh air intakes are not blocked
- Be sure your vents and chimneys are properly installed and free of debris, and blockage
- Natural Gas fired appliances should have a clear blue flame, yellow or orange may indicate a problem and should be checked at by a trained technician
- Carbon Monoxide alarms should be used throughout your home
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
While some CO detectors last up to 7 years, most do not. It is recommended that you replace your detector every 5 years. When in doubt of its age replace it. Be sure to test your detector regularly and replace batteries yearly.
Minnesota Statues require that Carbon Monoxide detectors be installed in every single family dwelling and every unit in a multifamily dwelling home.
Utility Equipment and Property
Utility equipment and property
- Fly kites, balloons, and model airplanes in open areas, far from overhead electrical lines.
- Never climb utility poles. Never throw things or shoot at power lines, poles, or insulators
- Keep ladders away from overhead lines. If you use a straight ladder, follow the four-to-one rule: Place the ladder base one foot away from the object it leans on for every four feet of height to the ladders resting point.
- Install or remove an antenna in dry weather only. Maintain a distance of at least twice the antenna’s length
between it and the power line.
- While snowmobiling watch for utility poles, guy wires, fences, underground cable junction boxes and right-of-way.
Remember that dangers are not easy to see from a speeding snowmobile, especially in the dark.
- Stay away from downed power lines. Never try to remove a downed line yourself. Immediately contact your local utility.