Fires can destroy homes and valuables and take lives. Electrical fires are particularly destructive and deadly. During Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, take the time to check your home for electrical safety.
Since electricity is normally harmless and helpful, it is easy to forget that electricity is also dangerous. Electrical fires can be prevented by understanding your electrical system and taking proper precautions:
- If electronics spark, you regularly experience shocks, or the lights flicker when you plug in electronics, you have an electrical problem. Contact a qualified electrician to inspect your home. If your home has never had an inspection, consider getting one, especially if you live in an older home.
- Switch plates and outlet covers that are discolored or warm to the touch. They indicate a problem and should be checked out. Immediately shut off light switches that are hot to the touch. Have them professionally replaced.
- Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) help prevent electric fires. AFCIs are installed in circuit boxes where they monitor electricity. If the AFCI detects a dangerous situation that could start a fire, electrical power is shut off. A qualified electrician can install AFCIs in your home.
- Use light bulbs that are rated for the fixture. If you use a light bulb with a higher wattage than specified, the light can overheat and start a fire.
- Extension cords are only for temporary use. If too many electronics are plugged into an outlet or extension cord, the outlet can become overloaded and start a fire.
- Electronics, appliances, and cords should be kept in good working condition. Damaged electronics; worn, cracked, or frayed cords; and power plugs with the third grounding pin removed should be repaired or replaced.
- Cords should not be under rugs, used in high-traffic areas, or tacked to the wall.
- Children and pets should know outlets, cords, and plugs are not toys.
- If you are putting a nail into a wall, know what lies behind the wall. A punctured wire could shock you immediately, or cause a fire in weeks, months, or years. Some electronic stud finders can be used to locate wires and avoid them.
Even if you do everything possible to prevent an electrical fire, you should still have a plan in case a fire does happen. Have smoke alarms, and be sure their batteries work. Know two ways to exit your home, and designate a meeting place for your family.
For more tips on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org. To learn more about how and when to change smoke alarms, check out the infographic from the U.S. Fire Administration below.