What to watch out for with flooded campsite pedestals
After seeing all the pictures and videos of a flooded campground recently, a single image stuck in my mind. One of the news feeds had a video of a campground where the water was deep enough that many of the pedestals were completely underwater, possibly for days. But soon after the waters receded, there were notices from campgrounds that they were back in business. But, were they really…?
Anytime there’s a flood, there’s a lot more in the water than just “H2O”. It’s full of all kinds of oil and gasoline from vehicles, sewage from waste treatment plants, every kind of mud and sludge possible, and heaven only knows what else. And if the outlets and circuit breakers in the campground pedestals have been sitting in it, you really don’t want to connect your shore power plug into one that’s not been properly cleaned and tested. Now, getting the campground owners to test every pedestal outlet might be asking a bit much, but perhaps we can at least get the pedestal outlets and breakers cleaned up.
Where to begin?
Step 1: First thing to do is make sure all the power is turned off to the campground. You don’t want to be wading around in water that has an electrical gradient running through it.
Step 2: Each pedestal should have its cover opened up, and the inside of the box sprayed with water from a water hose. You HAVE to get all the mud, bugs and gunk out of the box, circuit breakers and outlets or it will never be right.
Step 3: Any GFCI that’s been submerged won’t be repairable and should be replaced. None of the GFCI manufacturers I contacted would sanction any cleaning method for one of their GFCI outlets that were underwater. They have to be replaced just for liability reasons.
Step 4: Take a spray bottle of distilled water and do a secondary wash of the inside of the still-wet receptacles and circuit breakers. That’s to get out any calcium or other nasty chemicals that were in the water hose.
Step 5: Allow the pedestal to air-dry for at least an hour, or use compressed air to speed up the process.
Step 6: Spray the outlet contacts with DeoxIT D5 contact cleaner.
Step 7: I’m not sure what to do with any circuit breakers that have spent extended time underwater. I can’t find a reasonable cleaning method from the manufacturer, so they probably should be replaced if they were underwater for more than a few hours. Certainly, any circuit breakers that were underwater for days should be replaced.
Step 8: After all pedestals have been cleaned up and the covers properly installed, they should each be tested for proper voltage, polarity and ground integrity with a Ground Loop Impedance Tester such as a SureTest Analyzer from Ideal Industries.
There may be other cleaning considerations and procedures, but that’s my best educated guess for now. I used to do computer room cleanup after they had been flooded out from sprinklers after a fire (don’t ask), and this was the basic procedure we used that was nearly foolproof.
See you next week. In the meantime, let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.