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Seattle City Light JIM BAGGS, Interim General Manager and CEO
Staying Safe Around Electricity
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Electrical Safety

Electricity. It keeps the lights on and powers your home and all of the appliances, tools and devices that you use on a daily basis. It's essential to your daily life. Sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Each year, there are approximately 51,000 home electrical fires in the U.S. Fires cause property damage, injuries and approximately 500 unfortunate deaths.

City Light wants to make sure you have the information you need to use electricity wisely and follow safe practices. You and your family can stay safe around electricity by learning more about electricity and following some of these helpful tips. At Seattle City Light, safety comes first.

Related Content

Downed Power Lines
These are extremely dangerous. Stay as far away as you can from a downed power line.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Fuel burning appliances can produce a gas that cannot be seen or smelled.

contact us

Report an Outage
206.684.3000 or
206.684.7400

How To Stay Safe Around Electricity

  • Never touch or approach a downed wire - or anything in contact with one. Always assume a wire is live and stay as far away from a line as you can. Never try to remove items caught in power lines. When you see a downed power line - help to keep everyone safe by reporting it as soon as you can. Call (206) 684-3000 or (206) 684-7400 to report it or call 911 to address any situation where a downed power line might cause a dangerous situation.
  • Keep trees in your yard trimmed so they won't blow into power lines. Pruning trees or climbing trees can be dangerous even if they aren't directly touching power near wires. If you need to do yard work or home repairs within 20 feet of a powerline, schedule a temporary disconnect at least two weeks in advance.
  • If a power line falls on your car, stay inside if possible, call 911 and wait for help. If you must get out, avoid touching the car and the ground at the same time. Keep your feet together at all times. Jump out of the car, then hop or shuffle at least 20 feet away.
  • Always stay away from electrical facilities such as poles, transformers and substations. Kites and mylar balloons can be dangerous to you and your family and can cause outages. Keep kids and their fun safe by keeping kites, remote-controlled toys, and balloons far away from power lines.
  • Before you start any project that involves digging, call (800) 424-5555 or Call Before You Dig. We'll help you to avoid coming into contact with lines or other obstacles.
  • Before plugging in a new appliance, refer to the manufacture's manual for installation and safety instructions.
  • Avoid using any electric device in wet areas or with wet hands unless it is designed and rated use around water.
  • If an appliance falls into water, unplug it. Never pull it out of the water while it is plugged in.
  • Always unplug small appliances to clean or repair them.
  • Never leave any portable heating equipment unattended. Don't leave a space heater connected when you aren't at home to watch it.
  • Only use appliances that have been safety-tested by a certified testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
  • Immediately turn off and disconnect an appliance that sparks or stalls.
  • Keep combustible materials such as clothing away from heating appliances and light bulbs
  • Avoid using a higher wattage light bulb than recommended on the light fixture. It can overheat the bulb and may lead to fire. Lower wattage light bulbs, such as LEDs, can be used as long as the actual wattage is lower than the recommended wattage.
  • When installing insulation in areas where there is knob and tube (old) wiring or recessed can lighting, seek professional guidance on how to mitigate the risk of a fire.
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Cords and Outlets

  • Electricity and water don't mix! Avoid using electrical appliances or touching circuit breakers if you are wet or standing on a wet area.
  • When unplugging a cord, pull on the plug -- not the cord. Replace damaged cords. Don't use patched cords. Don't place cords where people will be walking, or drape cords over metal objects or coil cords while they're in use.
  • Avoid using extension cords. If you need to use an extension cord, make sure it's the right size or gauge for the appliance you'll be using. Extension cords used outdoors should be moisture-resistant and grounded (three-prongs).
  • Never cut off the third prong on an electrical plug! The third plug ensures proper grounding and safety.
  • To protect against electric shock, install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) in your kitchens and bathrooms where outlets could be close to sinks and other wet areas. They're also a good idea for outdoor outlets.
  • Overloading an outlet can cause a fire. Smart strips handle several appliances but you want make sure that it can handle all of amp ratings for appliances. The Seattle Fire Department, Fire Fact Sheets offers other solid guidelines to keep you safe.
  • Keep kids safe around outlets. Use safety covers if you have small children in your home.
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Small Appliances & Lighting

  • Fully assemble appliances before plugging them in. Fully disconnect any lamp or other item that needs repair.
  • Never leave any portable heating equipment connected when you're not around. Keep space heaters far away from furniture or curtains. Only use space heaters that have an automatic shut-off. If the heater falls, it will shut off and avoid a fire.
  • Only use appliances that have been safety-tested by a certified testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Look for a UL label.
  • Immediately turn off and disconnect an appliance that sparks or stalls.
  • If an appliance falls into water, unplug it. Never pull it out of the water while it is plugged in.
  • Use bulbs of the appropriate wattage in fixtures and lamps. Using a higher wattage bulb than recommended can overheat the bulb and may lead to fire. Lower wattage light bulbs, such as LEDs, can be used as long as the actual wattage is lower than the recommended wattage. If you need more information about wattage and lumens comparisons for incandescent, CFL, halogens and LEDs, we have a selector tool that can help.
  • Before plugging in a new appliance, refer to the manufacture's manual for installation and safety instructions.
  • When using an electronic device, be aware of its potential exposure to water. Avoid using electronic devices in wet areas or with wet hands unless it is designed and rated for such use.
  • Unplug small appliances when not in use and when cleaning or repairing them.
  • Keep combustible materials like clothing away from heating appliances and light bulbs.
  • When installing insulation in areas where there is knob and tube (old) wiring or recessed can lighting, seek professional guidance on how to mitigate the risk of a fire.
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Circuits

  • Only use fuses or circuit breakers with the recommended amps.
  • Make sure your home is wired properly. Inadequate wiring can cause fires.
  • Electrical problems such as fuses or circuit breakers tripping, lights dimming, electric motors running slower than normal can indicate an overloaded wiring system.

Electrical Shock

Never touch a person who is being shocked. If you can do it safely, unplug the appliance or turn off the power. Call 911 and begin Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) after the victim is cleared from contact.

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Power Outages

  • Customers on life-sustaining equipment should have emergency power backup, know how to operate it, and test it regularly. Contact Seattle City Light to let us know that you have this equipment in your house - call (206) 684-3020.
  • Unplug electrical appliances when the power goes out to avoid power surges and damage to your household appliances during prolonged outages. Leave one or two lights on to let you know when service is restored.
  • If you plan to use space heaters (e.g., kerosene, propane, and alcohol), make sure that they are in well-ventilated areas to avoid fatal carbon monoxide gas buildup. Never use gas or charcoal grills designed for outdoor use in indoor or unventilated spaces. Make sure to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.
  • For more information on power outages:

    When the Power Goes Out
    Generator Safety

  • Generators pose a significant hazard to you and to the crews attempting to restore power if they are used incorrectly. Never plug them into your home circuitry. If you choose to use a generator, please understand how transition switches are used and research good practices for using generators. Be sure to locate generators in a well-ventilated area.
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  • Contact Seattle City Light

    700 5th Avenue
    Suite 3200
    P.O. Box 34023
    Seattle, WA 98124-4023


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