March 26, 2019

Electricity And Water Don’t Mix

With warmer temperatures on the horizon and large amounts of snow across much of its service area, Otter Tail Power Company reminds customers and neighbors that electricity and water don’t mix.

High water levels and flooded areas could increase the potential for accidental contact with electricity. Otter Tail Power Company’s Safety Services Manager Greg Overland advises residents and visitors to the area to stay away from water that may be in contact with any electrical component, such as a pad-mount transformer or a downed power line.

“That includes flooded basements,” says Overland. “Don’t go there if the water level has reached any part of the electrical system, such as electrical outlets or the electrical connections on water heaters, water softeners, heating systems, etc. Don’t attempt to operate appliances or equipment with water-compromised electrical components without first having them evaluated by a qualified electrician.”

Here are some other safety tips:

  • Don’t use power tools or other electrical appliances in damp or wet areas.
  • Don’t even consider going near a downed power line.
  • Don’t connect a portable generator directly to your home’s wiring and never plug it into a regular household outlet. If you must use a generator, ensure you have adequately sized power cords to support the electrical load and that your generator is properly grounded. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s other instructions for safely operating a portable generator.
  • Call Otter Tail Power Company’s 800-257-4044 customer service number for advice or assistance if you must evacuate your home or business and don’t know how to shut off your main breaker or fuse box.

A public safety official, which may include the mayor, incident commander, or fire chief, can disconnect power in an emergency. “If your home has been without electrical service, either at your request, public safety official order, or due to a flood-related power interruption, electrical codes may require an electrical inspector’s wiring certificate before we can reenergize your home,” says Overland. You can find more information at

Overland also warns that high water levels could reduce power line clearances in some areas. He urges emergency responders to be especially alert when their work in flooded areas might put them in contact with energized electrical equipment including overhead lines, transformers, and substations.

“It’s important to us that our employees, customers, and neighbors remain safe and able to do the things they want to do,” adds Overland. “Without being hampered by an injury that could have been avoided.”