We recently got a lot of rain and my basement has standing water. The water is about a quarter inch deep. I have a freezer that is plugged in with an electric cord that is submerged in the water.

I want to clean the basement up but am afraid to with the electric cord being plugged in and submerged in the standing water.

The circuit breaker is also located down there. Thought about setting up chair and walking across room to shut breaker off.

  • Wear Electrical gloves then lift the cord out of the water; it should be insulated but maybe it is cracked or something. After the wires are out of the water you should be able to unplug them wearing electrically insulated gloves to do this is also possible. – Ken Feb 25 '18 at 10:45
  • @Ken: if the cord was cracked and kept in the water, the circuit breaker would have tripped already. Lifting it out above the socket level will just make the water slide down towards the socket, so I don't see any point in doing this. – Groo Feb 25 '18 at 17:06
  • Just FYI: What you are describing will almost certainly result in your death. – Valorum Feb 25 '18 at 17:11
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    flip the breaker with a dry wooden stick – jsotola Feb 25 '18 at 17:42
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    @dandavis electrons are like traffic thanks to Google Maps: they seek all paths in proportion to their conductance. You can be a lousy path but some electrons will still choose you. Then it becomes a numbers game. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 25 '18 at 22:19

Whatever you do, do not stand in water and try to unplug or use any electricity. This is one of the main causes of electrocution. You can kill all of the electrical or individual circuits at the panel then unplug all appliances. Then if possible leave all of the circuits in the basement turned off until professional remediation crews can come in and inspect, repair and replace all damaged devices and equipment.

Sorry for your loss. Good luck.

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    This answer would be better if it addressed the problem of turning off the circuit breaker that is also in the basement. – Aloysius Defenestrate Feb 25 '18 at 16:55
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    Or failing that, contact your electrical supplier and ask them to kill the circuit at the box if you can't get to the breaker without risk of electrocution. They'll happily send someone to unhook the wire for a few minutes since the alternative could end up blowing out other people's electricity (and/or killing yourself). – Valorum Feb 25 '18 at 17:10
  • @Valorum That should probably be an answer, I'd vote for it. I don't think anyone would want to or should walk through water to touch a breaker box, and the utility company should definitely help out, at least by turning off all the power for a few minutes to at least unplug everything & shut off breakers – Xen2050 Feb 25 '18 at 18:11
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    Power company might not even need to send someone. If power company has upgraded to smart meters, they can handle disconnecting and reconnecting remotely. – Tyson Feb 25 '18 at 18:51

Rubber boots are good insulators. If you wear rubber boots, it is safe to touch a live wire, even while standing in water. If you use an insulated tool, such as an electrician's screw driver or pliers to pull the plug, you will be safe. The main fuses for the service are on the outside of my house - are you sure you can't disconnect the mains before you do this?

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  • Most of us with basements, do have our service panel down there. – DaveM Feb 26 '18 at 1:52
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    Rubber boots in good shape that are designed for electrical insulation are good insulators. Generic rubber boots may or may not be insulating, and if they have any leak, then they will not be good insulators. Are you willing to bet your life on the integrity of your boots? – Johnny Feb 26 '18 at 6:37
  • I would use rubber boots but only a fool would touch a hot wire, this is never safe. I use insulated hot gloves that are certified and I still try to only handle insulated wire and tools when doing hot work. Ever heard of the hair dryer in the bath tub not much diferent. – Ed Beal Feb 26 '18 at 14:30
  • Insulated boots address electricity going to ground, but if you touch two live wires, you can get electrocuted by completing the circuit. Also, displacement current can be harmful. – Acccumulation Mar 15 '19 at 19:14

If you're not willing to call an electrician (who can use his own informed judgement on how to proceed), I'd call the power company, describe the situation and ask them to disconnect power. If they are unwilling or unable to do so in a timely manner, I'd clip the tamper tag and pull the meter myself. (with any luck you have a main breaker or disconnect at the meter)

Note that there may be legal penalties for doing so (it's possible that telling the power company that you're doing so and why may shield you), but having live circuits under water is a safety issue. You'll need to coordinate with the power company to restore power.

Pulling the meter may be overkill, but without a professional with experience and the right tools (like waterproof dielectric boots that are regularly tested), it's not worth the risk.

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Just consolidating comments here:

Wear insulated gloves. Wear rubber boots.

Use an insulated tool to unplug the electrical wire. Use a wooden stick or an insulated tool to flip the breaker into the off position.

Others are correct Standing Water can become electrified with out the circuit breaker tripping; so please do not listen to those who seem to claim the breaker will trip if the hot line comes into contact with the water.

Some commented that electricity finds the path of least resistance.. that is true, but when in water you are the least path of resistance.

Edit: I added an intro sentence to explain the reason for the information that I hilited.

To explain the process of how you become the least path of resistance (between the ===)

=========================================================================== Contrary to what people think: WATER is NOT a Conductor.

Yes you read that correctly Water does not conduct electricity

The impurities in the water conducts the electricity - and you the person are an impurity of the water and become the conductor!!

Now for those that do not believe me - you get your distilled water in a clean bottle and do the continuity test; then add NaCl (Table Salt) and repeat the test. Or you can just search the web!


EDIT added a heading to this section of links

Real world examples of how people were electrocuted and the breaker did not trip the links below are provided:

Electric Shock at Pool http://www.poolspanews.com/how-to/codes/preventing-shock-in-swimming-pools_o

Electric Shock Drowning at Dock Lake: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/parents-warn-about-electric-shock-drowning-after-15-year-old-girls-tragic-death/

EDIT 2-26-2018

Just to make sure I am being clear here: Yes the water in the basement can conduct because it has impurities in the water, rain water, city water, well water it all has impurities.. distilled water does not have impurities it does not conduct.

That said - the point of my explanations of water not conducting was to illustrate How that process of path to least resistance works.

How can the water be electrified and the circuit breaker has not tripped: No current path to return to source.

GFCI senses an Imbalance between hot and neutral (meaning an alternate current path) and so it trips - which is why you have them by code wherever you have the potential for water to be near Kitchens, Bathrooms, Pools, Spas , Hot tubs, Outdoor areas.

Now you as a person are conductive and when you are in that water (which is by nature impure); you are the path of least resistance to ground - much better than the impurities in the water ... you are more like a live wire from the water to the earth.

I tried to make these clarifications and points to help the op and also other commenters - like one commenter stated..

"how would just treading through the water kill someone?"

Well this is how it would kill someone - it would be electrified and find the person (impurity of water) to be the best conductor to ground.

And further to clarify the point that the circuit breaker does not always trip just because the water becomes electrified.

In other words I want the op to know regardless of those comments that there is a real danger that the op could be electrocuted if they adhered to those particular comments. Do not disregard the danger..

I do recommend the op change out his breakers or outlets for GFCI's in that basement.

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  • Your highlighted point is technically true, but completely irrelevant in a typical basement flooding with impure water -- the water will pick up plenty of contaminants that will allow it to conduct electricity. If that weren't the case, then it would be safe to walk in the water since you'd be surrounded by insulating water, so it wouldn't matter how well the human body conducts electricity since the electricity would never get through the pure water to reach the person. – Johnny Feb 26 '18 at 7:07
  • @Johnny - you are missing the whole point read it again as that is my point the Water is impure and the op can be electrocuted. I hilited the fact that the water is not the conductor so the op and comments such as "how would just treading through the water kill someone?" would understand the process of how that path of least resistance works in water. That the breaker does not always trip just because the hot line came in contact with the water - such as through a frayed cord. Perhaps I need to make sure that is exactly clear. I will edit. – Ken Feb 26 '18 at 7:48
  • I see the point you're trying to make, but when you put "WATER is NOT a Conductor" and "Water does not conduct electricity" in bold type, you're giving the wrong impression to someone who is skimming your answer. In the real world, standing water is rarely pure, so water does conduct electricity, sometimes better than the human body, sometimes worse, but it is a conductor. – Johnny Feb 26 '18 at 7:54
  • Electricity follows all paths at once in proportion to their conductivity (in siemens, which is 1 / resistance in ohms) If you doubt me, look at the resistor formulas for paralleled resistors, the formula is literally what I just said. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 15:06
  • @Harper Ohms Law.. Current through a resistor varies based on that resistance;lower resistance more current. I = E / R , for Parallel resistance 1/Rtotal = (1/R1 + 1/R2 + 1/R3) where R1 through R3 are different 'resistors' (I quoted that because we are talking about what is in the water and also the water itself as water is not the conductor like say a copper wire). You are correct it follows all paths at once in proportion, one of those less resistant paths will carry more of the current and a person could be that least resistant path and hence receive a hefty jolt. – Ken Feb 28 '18 at 9:37

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