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Seasonal Electric Safety Tips - Fall

Outdoor Outlets

Outdoor outlets should have waterproof covers. If moisture gets into outlets a shock hazard results. Standard outdoor outlets should be replaced with GFCI's.

Landscaping - Plan First
Fall is the perfect time for planting trees and shrubs. Be sure to consider the proper placement of trees and shrubs near power lines.

  • Select low-growing trees or shrubs that will not touch overhead power lines.
  • Call JULIE at 800-892-0123 before you dig. The utility companies will come out promptly and flag utilities located underground.
  • It is possible to attractively landscape around pad-mounted transformer equipment (large green boxes) with ornamental shrubs but it is important to remember not to plant shrubs on the padlock side of padmount transformers. This side must be kept open for maintenance work to be done on the padmount. When planting near a transformer, maintain a distance of 8 feet from any side with a door or opening and 3 feet from other sides. Electric workers need space to safely open the transformer when working on underground power lines. Service restoration efforts can be delayed by landscaping placed too close to the transformer. In addition, workers must sometimes cut down the plantings to perform the restoration work. Plantings that are cut down as a result of being too close to the transformer will not be replaced by the City Electric Utility.
  • Fences near equipment may be provided with a gate or removable section. Such a removable section must be easily removable by one person without tools. Fencing may not block access to equipment, meters, transformers or switches (i.e. no locks or other impediments).
  • Pad-mounted transformers and other above-ground electric equipment cannot be used for any purpose other than that which it was intended. It also cannot be painted or marked.

Ladder and Antenna Safety
Many homeowners winterize their homes in the fall, cleaning gutters, repairing roofs, painting, or fixing siding. Use caution when using a ladder in the vicinity of power lines. Keep ladders and tools at least 10 feet from power lines. Allow greater clearance around high-voltage lines. Use a clean, dry wood or fiberglass ladder near electric lines. Do not use a metal ladder.

When installing or removing an antenna, make sure it is at least one-and-one-half times its total height away from power lines. If the antenna starts to fall, let it go and stay clear. Looks can be deceiving, overhead power lines are not insulated. What may look like insulation is weatherproofing material. Wires should not be touched under any circumstances.

As an extra safety measure, plan your maintenance work when someone else is at home, or let a neighbor know your plans.

Standby generators can come in handy during storm-related outages. However, be sure that your generator is installed by a qualified electrician so the generator's circuits and the St. Charles Electric Utility circuits are not connected. In other words, they must be properly "isolated." If they are not properly isolated, customer-generated power can flow back to the power line, electrocuting an electric utility worker attempting to restore power. Conversely, if the circuits are not properly isolated, power distributed from the main power lines can lead to overheating the generator. This could cause an electrical fire. The most common isolation method is to install a double-throw double-pole transfer switch.

Portable generators that are not properly isolated could lead to the same hazards. To properly isolate portable generators, customers should be careful that they never connect the generator to an electrical outlet. Instead, appliances should be connected directly to the generator.

The easiest way to use a generator is to simply plug the equipment to be operated directly into the proper outlet on the generator. Never connect the generator's electrical output to any live home or building electrical circuits. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet. Also:

  • Avoid contact with bare wires and terminals.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) in any damp or highly conductive area.
  • Consult a licensed electrician to choose a generator and make certain it meets national and local electrical code requirements.

Halloween Safety
Halloween is the most decorated holiday following Christmas, and there are an increasingly wide variety of electrical decorations to choose from. This Halloween, be sure not to be “tricked” by the improper use of decorations so they can be a “treat” to look at:

  • Choose lights and animated figures with certified safety approvals.
  • Before using extension cords, be sure they are built for outdoor use.
  • Follow installation and maintenance directions for all electric decorations.
  • Check decorations for cracked sockets, frayed or loose wires, and replace them if necessary.
  • Turn off all electrical decorations before going to bed, or better yet, use a timer.

Electric Poles are Not Bulletin Boards
The St. Charles Electric Utility would like to remind everyone that utility poles are not intended for posting unauthorized signs for garage sales, advertisements, or events. These items and the materials used to attach them to the poles (nails, staples, tape, etc.) create a hazard to the person installing them as well as to electric utility personnel who have to work on the poles.


updated Feb 18, 2016