One amazing thing I find with the Hurricane/Flood in Texas

I, like many, have been watching the news stories about the enormous flood that has accompanied Hurricane Harvey and many of the sights are so heartbreaking and horrible.   One of the most surprising things to me though and is a totally amazing thing is how I'm looking at several homes that are covered by water, sometimes up to the tops of windows and doors, and yet you can see porch lights on or interior lights burning.

I worked in the Electrical field, and Electronics, and I know what mixing electricity and water does and I'm just amazed that these homes electrical service are not shorted out by the water that surely is over the electrical outlets and submerging many of the home's electrical appliances.  Of all the things I'm watching, other than the enormity of the disaster, the fact that as much of the power that is on is still on especially in the areas where homes are submerged into the water definitely up to and above the electrical plugs and light switches. 

Personally I'm surprised that we haven't had more fires and instances of people being electrocuted from being in close proximity to water and electricity together.  Ground fault outlets will explain only a few cases but most homes don't have ground fault outlets (GFCI) in the living room, bed room areas but only or mainly in the Kitchens, bathrooms, and garages as well as some of the exterior outlets.  The only way I can reconcile it is to say (to myself) that the water hasn't reached the mains where they come in at the Breaker Box.   

Let us just all hope that things improve rapidly for those involved and that the loss of life will be much less than expected.  For many thought they have lost it all, home, cars, memories, animals, and until things return to normal or some form of normal, their jobs as well.

Be as the Bereans ( Acts 17:11 )
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Aparently the very thing I was afraid of has taken the life of a young man.  I still don't have an explaination as to why the electrical outlet doens't short out other than the flow of current caused by the conductivity of the water isn't sufficient enough to trip the breaker, but in the case of this electricuted boy the water he was in took on the polarity of one side of the electrical supply and when he reached out and touched the metal lamp post it completed the circuit and electricuted him.

I will add this.  For all reading this you may have a similar situation in your home today, in your laundry room or garage or kitchen.  I've seen some homes that were wired by their owners and wired by people that didn't totally understand electricity and thus they wired the outlets wrong.  The best advice I can give to you is purchase a cheap outlet tester at Lowes or WalMart or Home Depot and test your outlets that are close to your major appliances or close to a freezer or ship equipment.  Each outlet has, or the new ones are supposed to have 3 terminals and all three are supposed to be wired up.  There is the two vertical holes and a single almost round grounding plug hole.  In properly wired plugs the grounding lug hole and the longer (vertical) hole is at the same electrical potential and at each breaker box the Neutrial (white) electrical wire is tied to the electrical ground connection which is what the grounding plug is actually tied to.  The shorter vertical opening, of the plug, is supposed to be the HOT (black) connection which is where the deadly power is connected to.  If wiring is backwards, as I have seen before, then it's possible that the HOT connection is wired to the neutral connector and thus extended to the grounding lug and actually ties lethal power to the case of whatever is plugged into the outlet.  Often time when this happens you will feel a buzz or like ants crawling over you when you pick up or touch one of these appliances. 

People get by with it and get away with it all the time but death or pain is just a touch away.  If you are touching the case, outside or metal part of the appliance that is plugged into one of these miswired outlets and then in the other hand touch another appliance that is plugged into a properly wired outlet then it's essentially the same as touching both sides of an electrical outlet and you get a shock, possible lethal shock.   So I encourage all members that read this to purchase one of these little outlet testers and just test your outlets, all of them, to see if they are wired correctly.  Chances are that they are but if you identify one that is not wired correctly you need to know where it is to beware of it and possibly correct it later on.   The tester will tell you if you have the ground wire disconnected (common in some homes that have been rewired) or if you have the Hot and Neutral wires reversed which is the very dangerous condition that I warn about above.   

I fear that we will hear about more people who are electrocuted as power stays on in homes that are flooded.  

Even with Knob and Plug system, which is a 2-wire system things can be safe as long as care is taken to wire plugs correctly.  There is though a much greater chance of error.  If you ever suspect there might be a problem and have a volt/ohm meter then just put the meter on Volt AC and check to see if there is voltage between the metal cases of one appliance to another.  Refrigerator to Stove or Sink to Dishwasher cabinet.   Homes have lasted for a long time with old wiring systems just as long as the insulators are good and you don't have things like rodents climbing through walls shorting them out.  Most wiring has insulation on it and as long as the insulation is good then your protection is there as long as the plugs are wired correctly and the breaker/fuse box is wired correctly.

Most of the newer appliances are double insulated as well as tools just for protection to the users.  The danger comes from older appliances and tools that have their metal case tied to one side of a two prong plug because those plugs are often plugged in wrong.  If you look at a plug/outlet usually you will see most are polarized in that one side of the plugs holes or slots is smaller (shorter) than the other side.  Even two conductor plugs often are polarized in that one copper conductor (plug side) is shorter/smaller than the other which is longer/wider. 

The wider or longer side is supposed to be the neutral side where the shorter/narrow side is supposedly tied to the HOT/DEATH side of electric supply.  The main thing I would say, regarding your home, is if you make any changes or have any changes made make sure you hire a licensed and knowledgeable electrician and not just a handyman who claims to know what he's doing.  Also never trust anything.  The first indication that there is a problem is if you reach for something or touch, brush up against, something and feel a fuzzy feeling like ants crawling on your skin then suspect that there may be lethal voltage present or something wired wrong and is reason to investigate further.   Never touch or grab something you are suspicious about but always bump it with the outside of (backside) of your hand.  Electricity makes muscles contract so if you were to touch something that was charged with your fingers or the palm of your hand the electricity would make your muscles contract and pull you into the charge.  

The safest thing is if in doubt have an expert check it out or verify with an electrical volt meter if a danger exist or not. 

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