Electrical Safety in the home

Electricity is a wonderful part of our lives, clearly enabling us to do so many of the things we take for granted. Food preparation, entertainment, communication, and so much more are all dependent upon the delivery of electricity. And yet, coming into direct contact with electrical current can severely injure you. In some cases, it can even kill you. Here are some things you can do to keep safe. Some of what we suggest may seem obvious, but we include it here because we believe it's impossible to over emphasize the importance of safety.

Safety Outdoors

Undoubtedly, first and foremost, stay clear of all power lines, especially those on the ground. Consider a downed wire to be "live" with electrical current going through it.

Take these easy steps to keep yourself from coming into contact with overhead lines:

When you're using equipment outside, look up to make sure that the equipment isn't going to collide with the lines.

Do not try to remove anything caught in power lines, not even an animal. Instead, call your power company.

Be especially careful when you're doing any jobs that require you to use tools which might extend up over your head.

Keep electrical equipment on your property clear of all obstacles such as trees and bushes.

Downed Power Lines

Your power company wants to know about any outages or power lines that are down. Please call it immediately if you experience or see a problem. You can call them 24 hours a day and they'll send emergency crews out to make repairs.

Inside a Car Touched by a Power Line

Fallen power lines can be extremely dangerous. Never touch a downed power line or anyone who's in contact with it, and stay away from a vehicle if a power line is touching it.

If a power line touches your vehicle, stay inside and warn others to stay away and have them call the power company.

If you MUST get out of the vehicle for safety reasons, jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.

Electric Lines and Trees

Trees are certainly beautiful and enhance our neighborhoods. However, trees planted in the utility right of way must be tended to so that electric service can be maintained on behalf of all of our citizens.

If your tree encroaches into the utility right of way, it becomes your responsibility to keep it trimmed; otherwise, the City will clear those trees that have not been maintained and threaten the electric service.

Trees that grow into or near the power lines which go to your house are also your responsibility and are only trimmed by the City when they threaten continuity of electric service.

To trim near power lines safely:

Call you power company if there is any question as to whether or not a tree is contacting the electric wires before trimming it. They can move power lines away from trees so that they may be trimmed safely. Call them a couple of days in advance of trimming so that they can coordinate with you.

Never hire unqualified tree trimmers or do the work yourself when trees are contacting high voltage electric wires.

Never cut tree limbs that are touching power lines or that could fall into them.

Electrical Lines and Flying Objects

Don't let metallic balloons or kites get away. Balloons and kites with shiny, metallic surfaces or strings can be very dangerous if they come into contact with electrical lines. As Benjamin Franklin discovered, they're excellent conductors of electricity, and, if they get tangled in the line, they can cause a short circuit. This can melt an electrical wire and cause it to fall, resulting in a power outage and possibly severe injury or even death.

Fly kites safely. Kites and electrical lines can be a potentially deadly match. Use common sense when flying a kite; always use dry string, wood, and paper and never use wire or any metallic material. Don't fly your kite in the rain and never try to retrieve your kite if it gets caught in a power line. Call the power company.

Going Underground

Call before you dig. You need to find out if there are lines in the ground before you dig for any reason, such as planting trees and bushes or installing fences and posts. If you fail to call you could end up in JAIL or worse.

Safety Indoors

Be just as careful with electricity indoors as out. In fact, odds are you and your family are more likely to come into contact with electricity inside your home, so take precautions.

Cover all your electrical outlets and wall switches with cover plates.

Put plastic safety caps in all unused wall outlets to prevent children from pushing objects into the outlet openings.

Know when your wiring needs attention. Power company employees will check equipment when an electrical problem such as flickering lights is reported. If they are unable to find a problem on their end, then the wiring in your house may need to be repaired. Find a licensed professional to check your home's electric panel, circuit breakers, fuses, and internal wiring.

Do not use damaged or brittle electrical cords. They can cause shorts, shocks, or fires and should be replaced.

To avoid damage, remove cords from outlets by pulling the plug, not the cord itself. Never attach a cord to any surface with nails or staples, which can break the insulation. Also, kinking, twisting, binding, or walking on cords can harm them.

Never remove the third prong from a three-pronged plug. The third prong has been included to safely ground your electrical appliance. Most power tools and major appliances have three-prong plugs for safety. If you don't have three-hole outlets, adapters are available at your local hardware store.

Protect yourself from shock with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI's). These special outlets can help prevent serious injury by detecting electrical faults and shutting off electricity to the outlet when necessary.

Michael Del Greco is a New Jersey Home Inspector, owner of Accurate Inspections, Inc. who is a Certified, Licensed ASHI Member performing home inspections in Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Morris Counties


New Jersey Home Inspector #GI121 (2003, first year licensing was offered).

Credentialed Wood Destroying Insect Inspector (2001).

Radon Measurement Technician (1993 – present).

Commercial Pesticide Applicator (1993 – present).

Department of Housing and Urban Development Plan Reviewer/Consultant and 203(k) Loan Consultant (inactive).


American Society of Home Inspectors #102273 (1996 – present).

Independent Home Inspectors of North America (2002 – present).


COMMITTEE MEMBER: Appointed to the State of New Jersey Home Inspection Advisory Committee (Licensing Board), (2004- present).

INSTRUCTOR, “Home Inspector Licensing,” Morris County School of Technology, Denville, New Jersey (2002 – present). Instruct students in preparation for National Home Inspector Licensing Examination. Teach 10 hours per week (300 hour course) in all areas of home inspection, including roofing, air conditioning, heating, plumbing, structure, electric, interior, exterior, reporting, professional ethics, standards of practice, New Jersey state regulations.

INSTRUCTOR, “For Home Inspector Continuing Professional Competency Courses” by the State of New Jersey (2004- present).

OWNER/INSPECTOR, Accurate Inspections, West Paterson, New Jersey (1993 – present). Own and operate home inspection business. Provide home inspections throughout Bergen and Passaic counties, as well as parts of Morris and Essex counties. Inspected over 5,500 homes since 1993. Promote, publicize, and market business to clients and lawyers.

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGER, Crest Management and Development, Clifton, New Jersey, (1986 – 1993). Coordinate construction of single and multi-family dwellings as well as construction and renovation of commercial and industrial buildings in northern New Jersey.

Michael Del Greco