Electrical Fire Safety
Electrical fires pose a real threat to households. Just because there isn't an open flame does not mean there isn't a risk of fire. There are many dangers when it comes to electricity, including wiring and appliances. But the good news is through basic maintenance, preventative measures, and basic understanding, electrical fires can be prevented and disaster avoided. It is important to discuss these measures with all members of your family, including children. Refer to our safety guide for helpful tips on how to keep kids safe in your home.
The United States Fire Administration stated that home electrical problems caused 28,600 fires in a year. That amounts to approximately $1.1 billion dollars in property losses and damages. The most dangerous months for electrical fires are December and January. The cold weather means more people stay indoors increasing the demand for lighting, gadgets, and heating. Christmas brings lots of decorative lights out of storage. They should be carefully checked over for broken bulbs and cracks in the plug and wire insulation. Their plugs should not overload adaptors and extension leads. The tree or illuminated feature should be stable to prevent it from falling and igniting carpet, rugs, or wrapping paper beneath it.
According to the United States Fire Administration, the main cause of electric fires is faulty fixed wiring. This includes defective electrical outlets and old wiring. High amp electrical appliances such as stoves, ovens and heaters also contribute to that annual figure. The cords to these appliances are usually responsible, they become frayed or damaged or wet all of which inevitably lead to fire. Exposing any type of electrical appliance to water can cause a fire. It is best not to site electrical appliances near water sources. Home design is crucial in the bathroom and kitchen.
Electrical heat sources will ignite paper and untreated flammable fabric items such as curtains, furniture, bedding, and clothing. These heaters should not be within three feet of anything combustible. It is important to only purchase heaters that have been approved by a nationally recognized laboratory, and have the relevant logos to prove this. Ensure that you follow the manufactures instructions and always unplug the heater when leaving the property empty.
Lamps, overhead light fixtures, and light bulbs are also potential fire starters. Always follow the wattage limit posted on the socket. Using a higher wattage is not a bright idea… it may overload the socket and make the base overheat, possibly causing a fire. Always use the recommended wattage and use the proper light bulbs for fixtures.
Casual use of electric cords is a sure fire way to start an electrical fire. Extension cords that are tucked beneath rugs or trail through high traffic home areas can easily have their insulation damaged and start a fire. Overloading adapters and improper prong connections also cause fires.
When using any electrical appliances watch for warning signs: overheating, burning smell, circuits shorting out, and sparks. If any appliance behaves suspiciously unplug it immediately and contact the manufacturers. If the problem is not the appliance contact an electrician to examine the building's wiring.
There are a few preventative steps that should always be followed when using electrical appliances. All containing motors and used at high speeds should be maintained yearly by a licensed electrician. But there are things you can do yourself, the dryer for instance has a lint filter, always clean the filter after every load. It will not only reduce the chances of a fire it will also help maintain the machine.
Familiarize yourself with these checks and steps, it will ensure home and family safety. The most important thing to do is install a smoke alarm. It will alert all household members should there be a fire. Conduct three month checks on all your electrical wiring and appliances. Light switches should be professionally replaced if they are hot to the touch or flicker. Check the wires and cords of all appliances; if they are damaged (worn, cut, frayed) have them replaced. Pay extra attention to appliances that are used in bathrooms and kitchens; avoid wet floors or counters. Do not overwork extensions or outlets and never connect a three prong plug into a two plug socket. Educate children about preventative fire measures: childproof all sockets and never allow children to play with electrical appliances. See our guide to childproofing your home for additional recommendations.
It is important to know what to do in the event of an electrical fire. If the fire is small and within a confined space (such as a extension cord catching fire) then turn off the circuit at the breakers, unplug the cord and spray with an ABC fire extinguisher. Do not throw water on the fire, it will make the fire spread further. The best thing to do is get out the house, stay out of the house, and call 911.
Electrical fires are extremely frightening. The best way to protect your home and family is through preventative measures and smart electrical usage. Ensure that your home's electrical systems are well maintained and constantly examined by a licensed electrician. Familiarize yourself with warning signs and follow manufacture warning and instructions when using appliances.
Article Written by +Colby Harris