The arrival of Summer brings a renewed sense of energy as we venture outdoors. Whether you’re firing up the backyard barbecue, tending to your lawn and garden, or enjoying quality time with loved ones, it’s important to prioritize outdoor electrical safety.
The Importance of Outdoor Electrical Safety in Warmer Months
Every year, numerous accidents occur due to electrical hazards outdoors. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 5% of all home fires originate outside the home. Home fires starting in garages and on exterior balconies or open porches can cause a disproportionate amount of property damage because they are less likely to be discovered when the fire is small and to be protected by sprinkler systems.1
Increased outdoor activities, such as barbecues, pool parties, and holiday celebrations, heighten the risk of outdoor fires during warmer months. It is crucial to remember that water and electricity are a dangerous combination, so extra caution should be exercised when dealing with outdoor electrical devices and installations in damp environments.
Common Outdoor Hazards and Precautions
#1 Inspect and Maintain Outdoor Wiring
Before diving into your spring/summer projects, inspect your outdoor outlets, extension cords, and device wiring. Look for signs of wear or exposed wires. If you notice frayed cords or cracked outlets, replace or repair them before use.
#2 Protect Outdoor Outlets and Electrical Cords
Outdoor outlets are vulnerable to moisture and debris and are required by code to be protected. Weatherproof covers help to prevent rain and dust infiltration and help keep you protected when in use. When it comes to extension cords, ensure they are rated for outdoor use and are not overloaded, damaged, or frayed (see more tips about extension cords here). When in use, be sure to keep appliances and cords away from puddles or wet areas.
#3 Be Mindful With Your Gardening
Spring and Summer is a perfect time to garden and care for your lawn. When operating electrical equipment such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, or electric pruning tools, be mindful of electrical wires and avoid running over them. If you’re planning any digging or landscaping work that requires you to plunge a shovel into the ground, contact your local utility company to locate and mark the underground utilities to prevent accidental damage to essential utility lines. 811 is the national code to call before you dig – you can find information for your state here.
#4 Use Outdoor Lighting Safely
Outdoor lighting can bring a beautiful touch to evening gatherings. Be sure to only use lighting fixtures, light bulbs, and decorations that are specifically designed for outdoor use. Never overload electrical outlets with excessive lighting or decorations. String lights are very popular these days; be sure yours are for outdoor use and are certified by a national laboratory for safety.
#5 Stay Clear of Overhead Power Lines
Summer brings activities like kite flying and tree trimming. As you reach greater heights, it’s important to stay clear of overhead power lines. Consider hiring a professional if any of your outdoor work requires proximity to power lines.
Being aware of potential dangers and taking necessary precautions can help to reduce the risk of outdoor electrical fires, preserve property, and most importantly, protect lives.
(Photo by Etienne Girardet)