Top 10 rules for electric safety

To play it safe around your home, remember the rules for using electricity the right way.

  1. DON'T plug a bunch of stuff into one outlet or extension cord. It could damage the electrical system in your house or even cause a fire.
  2. DO make sure all electric cords are tucked out of the way. Pets might chew on electrical cords, and people might trip and fall.
  3. DON'T ever play near or on a green transformer box or climb the fence around an electrical substation. If a ball or pet gets inside the fence, ask an adult to call Alliant Energy or your electric company - they'll come and get it out for you.
  4. DON'T yank an electrical cord from the wall. Instead, pull from the plug. Pulling on a cord can damage the appliance, the plug or the outlet.
  5. DON'T fly anything like drones or kites near power lines or substations. A kite and its string may conduct electricity - sending it right through you to the ground.
  6. DO ask an adult for help when you need to use something that uses electricity.
  7. DO look up and look out for power lines before you climb a tree. The electricity can go right through the tree branch - and right through you.
  8. DO have an adult put safety caps on all unused electrical outlets. Covering outlets will also help save energy by stopping cold drafts.
  9. DO watch out for power lines when using a ladder, chainsaw or other outdoor equipment.
  10. DO keep electrical stuff away from water. Most electrical accidents around the house happen when people use electricity near water.

family in a hot tub

Why electricity is dangerous

Have you ever walked across a carpet and received a shock when you touched a doorknob or another person? What you felt was the shock of static electricity.

A real electric shock is a lot more painful and can be deadly. Here's what can happen:

  • Muscles tighten up, making it almost impossible to pull away from the circuit
  • Lungs constrict, making it hard to breathe
  • Heartbeat is interrupted and blood vessels tighten
  • Burns
  • Internal organ damage
  • Death

It sounds scary, and it is, but if you remember the safety rules, you can use electricity without getting hurt.

Humans are good conductors

The human body is a good conductor of electricity. That means electricity flows easily through our bodies. Why? Because electricity moves quickly through water - and the human body is 70 percent water!

Another fact to remember is that electricity always tries to find the easiest path to the ground.

Overhead electric lines may cause serious injury or death if contacted. Maintain safe distances from electric lines at all times. Avoid using ladders, poles or other tools in situations where they may come in contact with overhead lines. Adults should call the electric company if they need to work near lines.

Accidents happen quickly

You might think that if you get shocked, you can pull away quickly and not get hurt. Electricity travels at the speed of light, 186,000 mile per second, so the effects of electricity can be felt immediately. A person has almost no chance of avoiding the shock.

If the electricity is strong enough, muscles tighten so much that a person can't let go.

Anyone who touches someone who is being shocked can become part of the circuit. That's why you should never grab anyone who's been shocked.

What to do if an electrical accident happens

It's important to know the rules of electric safety so you don't get hurt.

  • DO NOT TOUCH the victim because you might get shocked too.
  • Find an adult right away.
  • Turn off or unplug the circuit.
  • Call 911 and be sure to tell the person who answers that someone has been involved in an electrical accident.
  • If the accident happens near utility equipment like a power line or the green transformer boxes , keep others away and ask an adult to call 911 right away.

Even if a person seems OK after getting a mild shock, it's important to always go the hospital or see a doctor. 

Electricity burns from the inside out, so some injuries might not be easy to see. The heart and other internal organs can be affected several hours after the accident.


Car accidents

If you're in a car or bus accident involving a power line, your first thought might be to jump out of the vehicle. But the safest thing to do is stay in your vehicle until help arrives.

Why? Because the metal parts of the car might be energized. If you touch the outside of the car and the ground at the same time, you could get shocked. The fire department or utility company will come quickly to move the power line safely away.

If you absolutely must leave the vehicle due to a safety concern such as fire, hop out with your feet together, making sure to land on both feet. Be very careful not to touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Continue carefully hopping with your feet together in short hops until you're as far away as possible.

Never approach or touch a vehicle with a downed power line on it.

Emergency Lights

Downed power lines

Downed electric lines may cause serious injury or death if contacted. All downed lines, including telephone and cable television lines, must be considered energized and therefore, should be avoided. Key steps to follow when you encounter a low hanging or downed power line: 

  • Stay away; do not approach downed wires.
  • Call 911 or your electric utility company.
  • Keep other people away.
  • If someone is in contact with the power line – Do NOT attempt to rescue them because you could become a victim as well.
  • When first responders arrive, alert them to the situation.

downed lines


Wind storms, ice accumulations and heavy snows may reduce the normal space between energized electrical lines and the ground. Touching overhead electric lines may cause serious injury or death. People should be aware of sagging or downed wires and avoid contacting them.

line worker in a bucket truck following an ice storm


Substations are fenced areas containing large electrical equipment. The electricity used in these substations is extremely dangerous. It can kill a person. Substations are marked with either “Danger” or “Warning High Voltage” signs.

NEVER enter a substation or go near the fence surrounding one. If you lose something into the substation area, like your pet, a ball or a kite, DO NOT climb the fence or enter the area. Have an adult call the electric company.