‘Electrical Safety 101’ for your back-to-school student

Back to school electrical safety

Tina sits anxiously at the table eating her breakfast. She can hardly contain her nervous energy as she waits for the school bus to arrive. Today is her first day back to school after a long summer break. She’s ready to see her friends and get back into her familiar school routine.

But, is Tina ready to face the dangers electricity can pose as she makes her way to school or even while she’s at school? Before your child goes back to school, start the year by teaching him or her some “Electrical Safety 101.”

“One of our core principles at Indiana Electric Cooperatives is commitment to community. That includes educating our members about electrical safety,” said Tom VanParis, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

Here are some electrical safety lessons you can pass on to your school-age children, no matter their level of education.

Elementary/middle school students

  • Don’t play near or around power lines or poles while at school.
  • Stay clear of pad-mount transformers (those big green boxes) or other electrical equipment.
  • Don’t place objects, such as pens or pencils, in electrical outlets. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, nearly seven children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each day for electrical shock or burn injuries caused by tampering with a wall outlet.

High school students

  • If you drive to and from school, obey all traffic laws and practice safety when driving in areas where utility crews are working.
  • If you’re in an accident involving a downed power line, assume the line is energized. Remain in the vehicle and call 911. If you must exit the vehicle, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the vehicle and ground at the same time. Then, shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times, to reduce the risk for electrical shock or electrocution.

College students

  • Don’t overload electrical outlets. Most dorms or campus housing are not equipped to handle today’s use of electronic appliances and gadgets.
  • Keep all electrical appliances and cords away from bedding, curtains and other flammable materials.
  • Extension cords are only for temporary use and can become overloaded. Consider using power strips with an over-current protector that shuts off power automatically if too much current is being drawn.

Make sure your student, no matter his/her age, knows some “Electrical Safety 101” before heading back to school. It could save his or her life.

Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, Northern Wasco County PUD


Electrical safety in dorms

Firefighters respond to an average of 3,810 fires at college residence halls and Greek housing each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Beware of the following warning signs that could indicate an electrical hazard:

  • Power outages: circuit breakers that frequently trip often need to be replaced
  • Dim and/or flickering lights
  • Arcs and sparks: flashes of light or showers of sparks anywhere in your electrical system
  • Sizzles and buzzes: unusal sounds from your electrical system
  • Overheating: switch plates or receptacle covers that are hot to the touch or discolored from heat buildup (overheated wires can give off an odor of hot insulation.)
  • Electrical shock: any shock, even a mild tingle, may be a warning of an electrical danger.

If you observe any of these signs, notify your resident assistant.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International


Quick terms

Parents: Here are some “Electricity 101” terms you can teach your children.

  • Amperage (amps): The basic unit of measurement for electric current.
  • Current: The movement or flow of electricity.
  • Electricity: A form of energy produced by the movement of electrons.
  • Kilowatt: 1,000 watts of electricity.
  • Kilowatt-hour: One kilowatt of electricity produced or used in one hour.
  • Transformer: A device that changes the intensity of electric current.
  • Voltage: The pressure behind the flow of electrons in a circuit.
  • Watts: A measure of the amount of work done by a certain amount of amperage of electric current at a certain pressure or voltage.

Source: Idaho Public Television, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities