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Article updated: 4/18/2013 5:06 PM

Flooded basements can be a death trap

Use caution when cleaning up to avoid electrocution

Flooded basements can be deadly. Use extreme care or call professionals to avoid electrocution.

Flooded basements can be deadly. Use extreme care or call professionals to avoid electrocution.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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If your basement has flooded, do not walk in the water attempting to clean up. You could get electrocuted, warn electrical professionals.

Any amount of water in the basement could cover connections to appliances, such as the furnace, boiler or a dehumidifier. If the power remains on, this could lead to trouble, said Dennis Lauer, owner of Kordick Electric Co. in Northbrook.

"Those appliances could electrify the water without tripping the circuit breaker," said Lauer. "And you won't even know it. ... It's a potential death trap."

Even if there is a power outage, Lauer warns homeowners to stay out of the basement water.

"I cannot emphasize it enough, just don't go down into the basement while it's flooded. You just don't know when that power may come back on suddenly and electrify the water," he said.

Former Cook County Forest Preserve District Superintendent Arthur L. Janura died in his Inverness home during an August 2007 flood, apparently of electrocution. His body was lying in water in the basement, near a circuit breaker box.

Lauer urged homeowners to hire professionals, who wear the right gear such as high rubber boots and use special equipment to avoid getting electrocuted.

Naperville-based Electric Association Executive Director Carrie Spaeth agreed that homeowners need to shut off all power before attempting any work and call licensed professionals.

"We don't hear of electrical injuries from floods often, although it has been quite some time since we have had a flood of this magnitude in the Chicagoland region," she said.

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