Tips for Preventing Electrical Fires

Believe it or not, there’s a powerful source of fire right inside your home: electricity. From old defective wiring to overloaded outlets, there are electrical fire hazards everywhere we turn.

As a matter of fact, more than 40,000 residential fires are caused each year by faulty electrical wiring, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Tragically, defective electrical wiring systems have claimed an average of 350 lives a year for the past decade.

So, how can you ensure that your home’s electrical system is fire-proof? Follow these priceless fire prevention tips from the National Electrical Safety Foundation:

• Check your electrical cords periodically. If you find any cords that are frayed or damaged, replace them. Do not place cords under rugs or carpet.
• Make sure that your outlets and/or extension cords are not overloaded. If you notice that your lights are dimming, your heater or kitchen appliances are not working properly or your television picture is poor, this could be a sign of an overloaded circuit. Add up the wattage of all the electrical devices plugged into each circuit and keep the total load well below the circuit’s maximum capacity.
• Do not use high wattage bulbs in light fixtures and lamps that cannot handle them. Always choose the proper wattage bulb for each light.
• If you have children in your home, install child-proof electrical outlets. This will ensure that a child cannot insert something into an outlet.
• If your home is more than 40 years old, you should consider updating the entire electrical system. Because older homes often contain aluminum wiring, they are more vulnerable to electrical fires. You should replace the old wires with copper wiring, which is more resistant to electrical fires.
• Consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in your kitchen, bathrooms and utility rooms. A GFCI will shut down the electrical system if it detects an imbalance in electricity, which can help protect your family against electrocution.
• Install power surge protection devices for large electrical appliances and computers. A power surge, which is a sudden rush of voltage in an electrical circuit, can damage electrical devices plugged into the circuit.
• Avoid arc faults by installing arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI). Often caused by improper electrical connections, overheated wires or pinched wire insulation, an arc fault is a discharge of electrical currents across a gap that can lead to an electrical fire.

What to do if a fire breaks out

If an electrical fire starts at a wall outlet, pull the plug by the cord if you can get to it safely or turn off the main switch. If the fire is small, use your home CO2 fire extinguisher. NEVER douse an electrical fire with water.

If the electrical fire is large, evacuate your home immediately and call the fire department. Be sure to notify them that it is an electrical fire. They may be able to turn off the main power source, which could keep the fire from spreading.

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