A good sump pump is a must for most homeowners, especially those in flood-prone neighbourhoods. Generators that provide off-grid power in the event of outages, are also incredibly valuable.
However, owning these products comes with some risk. The good news is that these risks are minimized with knowledge, plus commitment to emergency preparedness and safety.
What’s up with sump pumps?
Sump pumps are electrical devices that pump water out of homes; they’ve saved many a basement from spring thaws. They’re electrical, though, meaning if flood water contacts one’s system, there’s risk of shock, which can lead to serious injury or death.
A sump pump should be used with a ground fault circuit interrupter. It’s a device that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects the current flowing along an unintended path, such as water or a person. It’s also wise to have a back up power plan for your sump pump (like a generator) and enough power to last 72 hours.
Of course, if water is flowing into your home too fast, and your sump pump can’t keep up, you’ve got a different set of worries. When water rises above electrical outlets, there’s a serious problem, as electricity can move through water and lead to severe shock. If your basement is experiencing significant flooding, don’t enter it. Call Hydro Ottawa at 613-738-0188 and request that we turn off your electricity. We waive the disconnect fee if it’s for flooding.
If the flooding is so serious that you need to leave your home, take electrical devices out of the home, or put them where water can’t reach them. We’ll restore power when it is safe to do so and any necessary repairs from damaged electrical equipment have been made and approved by the Electrical Safety Authority.
Let’s generate knowledge on generators
Generators are not just nice products to have to restore power temporarily, as you wait for an outage to be restored. For some, like essential businesses or people who depend on electrical medical equipment, they’re a must.
There’s a variety of types on the market now, including fuel-, propane- and solar powered generators. Some generators can pose fire and electrical hazards, particularly gas-powered ones. Do not fire one up in an enclosed space, like a garage. Use generators only in well-ventilated spaces, as they can emit carbon monoxide, the potentially deadly, colourless and odourless gas.
The Canadian Red Cross advises that you never use a generator in a flooded basement; it must be kept in a dry place. It also says to protect your generator from rain; cover it with a canopy if necessary. Generators can also be fire hazards, because they become extremely hot when used. Turn your generator off and let it cool before refueling. And store your fuel outside in approved containers.
Know your equipment
Sump pumps and generators are, no doubt, great tools to have on your emergency preparedness checklist, but only if you take the time to know their strengths and limitations.
This is the fourth in a series of blogs to mark Emergency Preparedness Week, May 7 to 13. For more see the Emergency Preparedness section of our website.