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Electrical Safety Tips & Resources

Everyday Safety Information

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 40,000 residential fires claim more than 350 lives annually. Electrical fires are most often attributed to problems with electric cords and plugs, lamps and light fixtures, and switches and outlets.

Help protect yourself and your family from electricity-related injuries.

  • Check your home electrical system for problems.
  • Avoid adding extra plugs in attachments which could overload outlets or extension cords.
  • Examine electrical cords to make sure they aren’t frayed, damaged or placed under rugs or carpets.
  • Use recommended wattage light bulbs in light fixtures and lamps.
  • Consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in areas that are exposed to water.
  • One of the most important precautions you can take is to regularly test your smoke detectors and to replace smoke detector batteries annually.
  • Always follow appropriate safety precautions and manufacturer’s instructions.

Safety outside of your home may be as simple as understanding where some likely dangers exist. Here are a few of the most dangerous and easily preventable scenarios:


Always assume that utility lines are “live” – or energized – and keep far away from them. Be especially attentive after wind, ice, or heavy snow storms when wires may have fallen to the ground.

Climbing/Playing on Electrical Equipment

Never let children climb a utility pole, a tower, or a tree near power lines. Kites or balloons that contact power lines can cause shock or fire, so fly them away from overhead lines. NEVER play on, sit on, or climb on electrical equipment of any kind.

Pad-Mounted Transformer Safety


Look up first! Ladders, regardless of what they’re made of, can become electrified if brought into contact with overhead electric wires. Wooden and metal ladders can conduct electricity. Keep this in mind and use extra caution when you, or your contractor, are using a ladder while working outside around your home.


Colorado law requires underground utilities to be located BEFORE anyone digs. Whether you are a contractor working on a site or a homeowner working around your own home, please note: digging can be dangerous if you don’t check first for underground wiring, cable or other underground utilities such as natural gas lines, water, or sewer lines.

Contact the Utility Notification Center of Colorado at 811 at least three days before you plan to dig and they will locate underground utilities on your property.

Power Tools

Don’t use outdoor power tools – electric drill, hedge clipper, sander, electric mower – in the rain or while working with or on wet surfaces. Consider installing a ground fault interrupter on outside outlets.

Tree Work

Electric wires may be concealed in the trees or shrubs you want to trim. Before you trim trees or shrubs, inspect the area carefully to ensure that it’s clear of wires.

United Power has the right, within public or private rights-of-way and easements, to trim trees and otherwise remove obstructions that are in violation of National Electrical Safety Code requirements, or that may prohibit safe, efficient operation, or restrict safe access to electrical facilities. Trees are routinely trimmed around United Power overhead electric distribution lines as required.

Please contact United Power at 303-659-0551 if you notice a tree which may be creating an electrical hazard.

Safe Tree Trimming

Swimming Pools

Be sure electrical equipment for your swimming pool is grounded properly. If you’re installing a pool, have it inspected by your town’s electrical inspector when the job is completed. A ground fault interrupter should be installed on your pool’s electrical equipment. If a fault occurs in the equipment, the interrupter will instantly cut the power, preventing a serious electric shock. Do not have any plug-in appliances near the pool.


Never construct a kite from wire or metal; always use paper or wood. That goes for the tail, too; it should only be made of dry string or cloth. Check your string or cord to make certain that it does not contain wire or carbon filament that is conductive. ALWAYS keep your kite away from electric power lines and choose a clear, dry day for kite flying. If your kite should get snagged in power lines or in a tree in which lines might be concealed, don’t try to free it yourself. Call United Power at 303-659-0551 or 800-468-8809.

Antennas & Satellite Dishes

Before you work on a rooftop television or citizen’s band radio antenna or install a satellite dish, be sure the area is clear of power lines. Install these devices where they won’t touch or fall on electric lines.

One of the most overlooked hazards on today’s farms is the risk of electrocution. United Power urges farm workers to be especially aware of the dangers of using farm equipment near power lines.

  • Make sure that you, your family and any farm workers know the location of all overhead power lines. Map out and discuss ways to avoid them when moving equipment.
  • Know the height of all farm equipment and of nearby power lines. Never move equipment under a line if you are unsure of the clearance.
  • Avoid moving large machinery alone. Enlist someone to monitor you as you drive to prevent contact with overhead lines.
  • Take caution when lifting or moving irrigation pipe. The combination of metal irrigation pipe and high voltage electricity can be deadly.
  • Periodically check grounding rods and wires around buildings and power poles. These rods and wires can become damaged and broken. If damaged, the overall system will not provide adequate grounding protection.

Power lines carry high voltage electricity and can be deadly. Always assume that utility lines are “live” – or energized – and keep far away from them. Be especially attentive after wind, ice, or heavy snow storms when wires may have fallen to the ground.

Never let children climb a utility pole, a tower, or a tree near power lines. Kites or balloons that contact power lines can cause shock or fire, so fly them away from overhead lines. NEVER play on, sit on, or climb on electrical equipment of any kind.

When carrying and using ladders and other long tools, keep them at least 10 feet away from all overhead lines – including any lines from the power pole to your home. Look up before raising a ladder or pole to verify that it will not be close to power lines when raised. Use a flashlight or lantern at night to help you see overhead power lines or other hazards.

If you happen to be in a vehicle and wires have fallen on or near it, stay in your vehicle and tell others not to touch the wires or the vehicle. Anyone on the ground who touches your vehicle could be in danger. If the vehicle is safe and is not on fire, stay in the vehicle until an emergency responder indicates it is safe to get out. If you must leave due to other hazards, jump clear of fallen lines. Don’t touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Land with feet together and hop away with both legs together. Always call 911 in emergency situations.

Immediately report any fallen, low hanging, or smoking wires to United Power, the police, or fire department. United Power has dispatchers and line workers who are prepared and available 24 hours a day to help you.

Safety around power lines is also critically important when trimming trees. To find tree trimming safety, click here

Use your generator safely & responsibly!

A generator can be a wonderful tool during an outage, but it can also be extremely dangerous. If used incorrectly, a generator can cause serious harm or even death. It is important that when using your generator, you keep the following safety tips in mind — you just may save a life.

  • Know your generator! Read all the information on installation, safety and maintenance, and follow instructions regarding maintenance and testing. When a generator is not properly installed, it will “back feed” through the transformer and produce an output of 7,200 volts onto United Power’s distribution line. As a result, a line crew working on the system would be in danger.
  • For everyone’s sake, isolate your generator from the co-op’s power lines. This means you should connect appliances or other devices directly to the generator with the appropriate-sized cords. If you connect it directly to your home’s wiring, a double-throw switch is required by electrical code to separate your generator from United Power’s system. For the dangers of back feeding, click the link below. 
  • Take care when fueling your generator. Never try to refuel the unit while it is operating. Avoid spilling gasoline or other fuels on hot components.
  • Provide adequate ventilation and air cooling for the generator to prevent overheating and the accumulation of toxic exhaust fumes. Do not install your generator in a basement, attached garage, or any enclosed area. Exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which is an odorless, invisible, poisonous gas.

If you have additional questions, please call United Power. We will be glad to work with you to make sure your generator is sized and connected properly. If you have already installed or plan to install a generator, please contact United Power at 303-637-1300 so that we may note this on your account.

Dangers of Back Feeding

If you are experiencing a life threatening situation, call 911.

Electric emergencies don’t often occur, but if they do, it is important to be ready. Knowing what to do in an emergency will help you and your family live better… and safer! Remember these tips:

  • If someone is being shocked by an electrical circuit or appliance, do not touch them directly. Either turn the power off, unplug the appliance, or remove the person from the electricity by using a non-conductive, dry material or item such as a leather belt, clothing, a towel, or rope.
  • If someone is in contact with an outdoor energized power line, stay at least 20 feet away from the area and do not attempt to remove the person or power line. Immediately call 911 in an emergency.
  • If you see a power line down, do not touch it, and keep at least 20 feet away from the area. Call United Power at 303-659-0551 or 1-800-468-8809.
  • Keep our telephone number, other utilities, and medical emergency telephone numbers readily accessible and make sure your entire household knows where this information is kept.

Safety Resources & FAQs

Electrical systems age and can become overloaded, particularly in older homes. Over the years as more lighting, appliances and equipment are added, the electrical system becomes overburdened and problems can develop. If fuses blow or circuit breakers protecting branch circuits trip frequently, new branch circuits or other repairs may be necessary. Depending on the condition of the equipment and the extent of the repairs, the cost may be nominal or could run into several thousand dollars. A qualified licensed electrician can determine if repairs are necessary and can estimate the cost.

Three-Prong Plug: The third prong on a three-prong cord set provides a ground path to your circuit breaker or fuses that can detect if electricity is straying or leaking from a product. This helps protect equipment and can help prevent electric shock.

Polarized Plug: A polarized plug is a plug with one large or wide prong and one narrow one. It ensures that the plug is inserted correctly in a socket and reduces the risk of electrical shock.

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter or GFCI, is an electronic device for protecting people from serious injury due to electric shock. They are often found on bathroom or kitchen circuits, or other circuits located close to water.

GFCIs constantly monitor electricity flowing in a circuit. If the electricity flowing into the circuit differs by even a slight amount from that returning, the GFCI will quickly shut off the current flowing through that circuit. The advantage of using GFCIs is that they can detect even small variations in the amount of leakage current, even amounts too small to activate a fuse or circuit breaker. GFCIs work quickly, so they can help protect consumers from severe electric shocks and electrocution.

All GFCIs work in the same manner to protect people against ground faults. However, unlike the receptacle GFCI, the circuit breaker type GFCI also provides overload protection for the electrical branch circuit.

Consumers are encouraged to use a qualified and certified electrician to install circuit breaker-type GFCIs. Individuals with strong knowledge of electrical wiring practices, who can follow the instructions accompanying the device, may be able to install receptacle-type GFCIs. The portable GFCI requires no special knowledge or equipment to install.

Danger of Electric Shock

Even if the GFCI is working properly, people can still be shocked. However, the GFCI can act quickly to prevent electrocution.

The large box-like device found on the ends of some appliance cords can be either an appliance leakage circuit interrupter (ALCI), an immersion detection circuit interrupter (IDCI), or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). They work in different ways, but they are all intended to shut off the power to an appliance under an abnormal condition such as immersion of the appliance in liquid.

Appliances that have built-in shock protectors, as now required for hair dryers, may not need additional GFCI protection. However, other unprotected appliances still need GFCI protection.

Just because you have an appliance with one of these devices, it does not mean that it is okay to drop the appliance in water and retrieve it while it is plugged in. If you should happen to drop an electrical appliance in in water, shut off power to the circuit into which the appliance is plugged, unplug the appliance, drain the water and retrieve the appliance. The rule that “electricity and water don’t mix” still applies.

GFCIs are necessary even if the product has a third wire to ground it. GFCIs provide very sensitive protection to consumers against electric shock hazards. Under some conditions, a shock hazard could still exist even if a product has a grounding wire.

Before purchasing an extension cord, consumers should consider how the cord will be used. Make sure the rating on the cord is the same as or higher than the number of watts needed by the product that will be plugged into the cord. Extension cords should never be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.

The main difference between circuit breakers and fuses is that circuit breakers can be reset while fuses operate only once and then must be replaced. If your breakers or fuses trip repeatedly, call an electrician because you may have a problem with your electrical system.

Touchstone Home Energy Adventure
The game where you learn how energy efficient you are, as well as how you can improve your home's energy efficiency. 

Safe Electricity
Safe Electricity is an award-winning, multimedia public awareness program of the Energy Education Council (EEC). Since 2001, Safe Electricity has been providing information to consumers and helping compliment the safety education activities of utilities and educators.

Electric Safety Foundation International
ESFi is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace through education, awareness and advocacy. 

US Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC is an independent federal regulatory agency with a mission to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury or death from consumer products through education, safety standards activities, regulation and enforcement. 

National Fire Protection Association
NFPA is a global nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. 

Edison Electric Institute

ESFi Kids' Corner
Electrical dangers are lurking around every corner, but not to worry. Private I. Plug is on the case! Sit back and watch PIP investigate or dust off that magnifying lens and play some games. 

Energy Safe Kids
ESK provides electrical safety materials, developed by National Energy Foundation, for teachers and students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Energy safety is taught and explored through a combination of materials for teachers, classroom presentations and an interactive, online community. 

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