They are hidden behind your walls, snaking through your home largely unseen and unheard. Electrical wiring is all around you in your home, and electrical fires can pose a real threat to you and your family. Read on to learn ways to prevent electrical fires in your home.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 47,000 fires in homes in 2011 involved some kind of electrical failure or malfunction, resulting in more than 400 deaths and $1.4 billion in property damage.
Don’t become a statistic. Learn these 10 safety tips on ways to prevent electrical fires in your home.
- Hire a licensed electrician
Having electrical work done at your home is one area where you don’t want to take shortcuts. Don’t fall for the lure of cheaper electrical services by hiring an unlicensed electrician, a friend who says they know how to wire, or even by doing it yourself.
Faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of electrical fires in residences. Licensed electricians have state certifications, and ensure their work meets quality and safety standards. You also won’t be able to pass building inspections or get insurance if a licensed electrician hasn’t done the work.
- Don’t ignore the danger signs
Some things that are broken or need fixing can be left for another day. Warning signs that you have electrical problems, however, should be handled immediately.
Watch for the danger signs, and call your electrician if you notice any of the following:
- Hot plugs or sockets
- Scorch marks on sockets
- Wires sticking out of plugs
- Exposed cables in plugs
- Fuses that blow repeatedly for no reason
- Worn or frayed electrical cords
- Use caution with extension cords
There are plenty of ways to use an extension cord incorrectly. Don’t be tempted to do any of the following:
- Use indoor extension cords outdoors
- Tape extension cords to the floor, or run them under rugs
- Power more than one device with one cord
- Remove the grounding pin to fit a cord into a two-prong outlet
- Plug multiple extension cords together
- Don’t overload sockets
Overloading a socket is one of the ways electrical fires can start and can be prevented by using adaptors safely. Only use one adaptor per socket, and check the rating of the adapter before you plug appliances in. Bar adaptors with leads are better than block adaptors.
You don’t want the amount of current used by the appliances plugged into the adaptor to be too high. In total, 3,000 watts of power, or 13 amps, is the limit.
- Check the plugs and cords on electronics
Don’t wait for a fire to happen, be proactive about preventing electrical fires. This includes checking plugs and cords on electronics regularly to make sure they are functioning properly.
If you need to, set yourself an electronic calendar reminder to go through your home and carefully check plugs and cords. Feel the cords when in use, and make sure they aren’t hot to the touch.
- Keep appliances away from flammable items
When plugging appliances in, make sure you keep flammable items away. A good rule of thumb is to have three feet between appliances and flammable items at all times.
Items like paint, paint thinners, or other flammable liquids should be stored in detached garages or sheds when possible.
- Use proper wattage bulbs
Don’t be tempted to put a light bulb with too high a wattage into the new lamp or light fixture you bought. Extra heat is produced by bulbs with too high a wattage, and that heat can damage the light fixture, or spark a fire.
- Ensure smoke detectors are working
Once a month, go around your house and test all of your smoke detectors. Doing it once, annually, when you change your detector batteries is not enough. You also want to make sure you have enough smoke detectors in your home, and that they are outside each sleeping area, in every bedroom, near the stairs, and on every level of your home.
Learn more by reading lifesaving smoke alarm safety tips every parent should know.
- Have fire extinguishers on hand
Hopefully, you never experience an electrical fire at your home. But if you do, you’ll want to be prepared by having fire extinguishers throughout your house.
Store fire extinguishers in different rooms, including the kitchen. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the extinguishers are stored, and how to use them. Fire extinguishers come in different sizes, too, so make sure you have ones that can be easily handled by children and adults alike.
- Have a fire escape plan
Having a fire escape plan is another great way to protect your family should an electrical fire strike. Your plan should include how to get out of the house, a designated meeting spot once outside, and that nobody should return to the house before fire officials arrive.
For more details, read about fire escape plans beyond stop, drop, and roll.