article is intended to provide individuals with general information
pertaining to electrical fire safety warnngs and precautions.
Each year in North
America, hundreds of people die and thousands are injured in accidents
involving electrical fires. Most of these incidents can be prevented by
following simple electrical fire safety rules. Although some of these
fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects,
many are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances,
incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.
Statistics show that December is the most dangerous month for electrical
fires. Not surprising, as people tend to stay indoors and increase lighting,
heating, and appliance use during winter months.
Most electrical fires result from problems with "fixed wiring",
such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Many are caused by cords
and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords. In urban areas, faulty
wiring accounts for 33% of residential electrical fires. Misuse of electric
cords, overloading circuits, poor maintenance of cords, and running cords
under rags or in high traffic areas often lead to electrical fires that
could have been avoided.
Next to heating your home, appliances consume the most electricity and
sometimes cause electrical fires. Those most often involved are electric
stoves and ovens, dryers, central heating units, televisions, radios and
record players. Always follow the manufacturer's safety precautions when
using an appliance. Many people overlook seemingly-harmless warning signs
such as overheating, an unusual smell, short circuits, sparks and sputters.
If any of these occur, the appliance should be immediately turned off
and unplugged. Contact the manufacturer in order to determine what steps
to take next. However, if the appliance functions well, you may have encountered
an electrical wiring problem and should contact a certified electrician
to check the wiring in your home.
- Routinely check
your electrical appliances and your home wiring
- Replace all old,
worn out, or damaged appliance cords
- Use electrical
extension cords wisely
- Keep clothes,
curtains and other potentially combustible items away from all heaters
- Never overload
extension cords or wall sockets
The most important
fire precaution is to have a functioning smoke alarm in your home and
to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
When a fuse blows or a circuit breaker is tripped, find out what caused
it to overload before replacing or resetting it. Correct the problem and
if you cannot find the source or feel uneasy about the situation, do not
hesitate to call an electrician.
Have a professional electrician replace old or damaged receptacles with
modern, three-wire, polarized receptacles. To minimize fire and shock
hazards, proper grounding is essential. Also, make sure that appliance
plugs match their receptacles. Never cut off or bend the ground pin of
a three-pronged plug as this ground connection protects you from shock
caused by a faulty cord or a malfunctioning appliance.
Many electrical problems can be detected before they cause a fire or harm
someone. To better ensure electrical fire safety, learn to be alert and
pay attention to any irregular electrical function in your home. Some
warning signs include:
- A recurring problem
with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
- Experiencing a
tingle when you touch an electrical appliance
of wall outlets
- A burning smell
or unusual odor coming from an appliance or wiring
- Flickering lights
If you notice any
of the above warning signs or if an appliance functions oddly, take appropriate
measures to prevent an accident. Unplug the malfunctioning appliance immediately.
If necessary, cut off power to the problem circuit by disconnecting the
fuse or tripping the circuit breaker manually and locate the problem.
When in doubt, contact an electrician or call the power company to inspect
the electrical connections outside your home. Electrical fire safety is
a serious matter and precaution is of utmost importance.
by John Manley
Having experienced 2 house fires,
John Manley now devotes some of his spare time
educating people about the importance of having
fire extinguishers, CO and fire alarms, and
proper escape plans though the website: Fire
Extinguisher: 101 - www.fire-extinguisher101.com.