Electrical Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe
From flipping a light switch or plugging in your blow dryer, electricity is such a large part of our daily lives, and its hidden dangers can be easily overlooked. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), electrical cords alone account for over 25% of the estimated 81,000 electrical fires each year. This resulted in $1.5 billion in direct property damage. At 1-800 WATER DAMAGE, safety is our number one priority, so we’ve come up with some indoor and outdoor safety tips to help protect you, your family, and your property from electrical fires.
Our homes and our families depend on electricity to power our daily lives. According to the latest data from the NFPA, from 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 45,210 house fires each year that were caused by electrical malfunction or failure. Most indoor electrical accidents can be prevented if the following precautions are taken:
- Appliances- From toasters and televisions to refrigerators and microwaves, we love our appliances and our homes are filled with them. Any major appliances like dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioning units, etc. should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into extension cords or power strips can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
- Space Heaters - Space heaters are the leading cause of home fires involving heating equipment. Because space heaters use a lot of energy and produce heat, one of the biggest electrical risks they pose is overheating. Before purchasing or using any kind of electric space heater, look for the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories mark. This certifies the product has been tested by national standards and is safe to use. When using a space heater, always plug it into a wall outlet directly, and make sure it is the only heat-producing appliance plugged into that outlet.
- Lights- Lights can be dangerous if you’re not using the correct light bulbs. Only use light bulbs that are at, or below, the maximum wattage listed on your lamp or light. Typically, there will be a sticker on the appliance that indicates the maximum wattage. If you are using lights for seasonal decorations, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum wattage and proper connection.
- Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)- GFCI outlets will automatically disconnect power when the plug encounters water. These are crucial for preventing electrical shock. It’s important to note, you should have GFCI protection anywhere electricity and water are within six feet of each other. They are code-required in wet areas like bathrooms, garages, kitchens, and laundry rooms. GFCI outlets should be checked once a month according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Note: If you have frequent problems with blowing fuses, discolored or warm wall outlets, flickering or dimming lights you should call a professional. All of these are potential fire hazards that could cause an electrical fire.
Electricity isn’t just a threat inside the home, it can also be a threat outside. Never overlook outdoor electrical safety. From your outdoor outlets and extension cords to power lines and generators, there are many different outdoor electrical threats. If you’re considering doing any electrical work to the outside of your home, contact a professional. Prevent outdoor electrical accidents by following these precautions:
- Extension cords- Extension cords are a convenient way to bring power to your backyard, but they should only be used as a temporary solution. If you need a permanent solution, have a certified electrician install additional outlets. Before using extension cords (or any cords), make sure they are rated for outdoor use and are not frayed or damaged in any way. Lastly, ensure they are not running under carpets or across doorways where they can get damaged.
To read more about choosing the right extension cord for the job, check out this article from The Spruce.
- Outdoor Outlets- Make sure all your outdoor electrical outlets are GFCI protected to prevent electrical shock. Outdoor outlets should also have weather resistant (WR) receptacles that protect your outlets from humidity along with rain, snow, and ice when they are properly installed.
- Power Lines- Power lines can be extremely dangerous due to the live wire. Always keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away to be safe. In some cases, electricity can jump to nearby objects. It’s also important to have a professional come out and trim the branches around your power lines. This will help prevent any branches falling and damaging the electrical wiring.
- Generators- Generators can come in handy during short-term power outages. Because generators produce carbon monoxide when running, you should always keep your generator outdoors to keep you and your family safe. Don’t plug generators directly into your home outlet or keep them running in the rain. This poses a huge safety risk, not to mention it can also potentially ruin your other appliances.
For more information on operating a generator safely, check out this article from Consumer Reports.
When thinking about your home, electrical safety should always be top of mind. The best way to keep you and your home safe is to understand the dangers of electricity both indoors and outdoors.1-800 WATER DAMAGE is here to help keep you and your family safe. In the case of a fire in your home, our certified technicians are available to help.