Preventing Electrical Fires In Your Home
Preventing electrical fires can and should be a priority in your home. Did you know that tens of thousands of electrical residential fires occur annually in American homes, causing thousands of injuries and deaths and close to a billion dollars worth of damages? Faulty wiring, misuse of electric cords and fixed wiring account for most of the electric residential fires. By following these fundamental electrical fire safety tips, you can prevent electrical fires from occurring in your homes.
Before we get into the more technical electrical details, there are some obvious fire safety steps you can take to prevent electrical fires from ever happening:
- Never use frayed, broken or cracked extension cords. These should be thrown away.
- Always buying extension cords and other electrical hardware that carry the UL approval label
- Make sure the load capacity matches the demand.
- Don't cover extension cords with carpeting, rugs, or other objects that will increase the likelihood of overheating.
- Pay attention to your electrical equipment. If you notice that certain appliances cause brown outs or trip the electricity frequently, replace (if damaged) or reroute to a circuit with a greater capacity. Equipment that sparks, smokes or shocks should be replaced immediately.
- Electricity and water don't mix. Keep away from wet floors and other water sources (especially in the kitchen and bathrooms). Also, stovetops can cause problems if food is left unattended.
- Don't use three-pronged plugs in an extension cord or a two-pronged outlet (there is a reason this appliance requires a larger plug).
Now for some ways of preventing electrical fires that you might not have thought of:
- Number One rule is pay attention to your load capacity. As you increase the number of electrical items or amount of consumption, your electrical capacity may come into question. If you notice frequent breakers tripping, dimmed lights, or fuses tripping, these may be signs of inadequate electrical supply for your load. You may need to add an additional circuit or reroute your grid.
- If you see that you are using multiple outlets or extension cords on a regular basis, take note of the amount of strain these additional units are putting onto the electrical panel. Frequent or continuous use of multiple devices may be more than one outlet can handle and can cause damage or fire.
- Older homes have an issue with the wiring lines that is the power company's responsibility to replace. These houses were built using two-wire systems with 110-115 volts, hardly adequate for a modern home. These systems should and will be replaced with a three-wire system by your local power company.
- Arc faults/electric arcs are the main cause of electrical fires. Broken wires, deteriorated insulation, or driving a nail into a wire can be the catalyst for such arcs, and these can be fatal. A device known as an AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) is available to help prevent these. AFCI's can be purchased for branch circuit (meaning circuit breaker or mounted near the panel board) to protect branch circuit and feeder wiring and some extension wiring. Outlet circuit types are also available to protect individual outlet units and circuits. Additionally portable units are available for power supply cords, simple yet lifesaving when necessary. AFCI's actually pick up on arcs at the source (cords, outlets etc.) and stop the electric flow (trips the breaker) before a fire can start.
- LCDI is another device with similar functionality as an AFCI.
- It should be noted that an AFCI is not the same thing as a GFCI, and performs an entirely separate function.
**Never use water to put out an electric fire. Adding water to an electric fire can cause the fire to get bigger and may lead to electrocution. The most important thing to do if an electric fire occurs is to shut off the electricity if this is possible. If not, leave the house immediately, and call 911.