Did you know that two-thirds of all electrical fires begin with the cords or the plugs from appliances? Use the following information to minimize the chances of these deadly fires.
Warning signs of an electrical problem
- Flickering Lights. If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance, the circuit may be overloaded or there may be a loose connection.
- Sparks. If sparks occur when you remove or insert a plug, it may indicate a loose connection.
- Warm electrical cord. If an electrical cord is warm to the touch, the cord is underrated or defective and should be replaced.
- Frequent blown fuses or broken circuits. If a fuse or circuit breaker keeps tripping, it's a warning sign of problems.
- Frequent bulb burnout. If light bulbs burn out frequently, it's a sign that wattage is too high for the fixture.
Don't exceed 1,500 watts on any outlet or circuit. When outlets or circuits carry too much electricity, they generate undetectable amounts of heat. This heat eventually causes wear on internal wiring, where it can ignite and start a fire.
Air conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens and irons are just a few of the appliances that use 1,000 watts or more. If in doubt, refer to your appliance manufacturer's instruction booklet for wattage requirements.
Most major appliances have three-prong plugs, meaning they are grounded. Proper grounding provides a safe path for electricity to travel from a defective outlet, fixture, appliance or tool to the earth, preventing an electrical shock or fire.
Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are wall-mounted outlets used in areas where electricity and water are likely to come in contact, such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and outdoors. They have buttons marked "Test" and "Reset." GFCIs monitor electric current and act like a switch, shutting off power before an injury occurs.
Portable GFCIs are designed for easy transport and plug into existing non-GFCI outlets or connect with a cord/plug arrangement. Portable GFCIs also have a no-voltage release that will disconnect power to the outlet if a supply conductor is open. There are portable, waterproof GFCI devices approved for outdoor use.
What to do if an electrical emergency occurs
Know how to trip the main circuit breaker at the electrical panel to turn off all power to the house if an electrical emergency occurs. If arcing, burning or smoking occurs from an appliance, turn off the power at the circuit breaker and call the fire department.
Due to the risk of an electrical shock, never use water on an electrical fire. Class C fire extinguishers are non-conductive and are designed for use on appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets.
With a little planning and attention to detail, you can help reduce the risk of electric fires in your home and ensure the safety of your family.