Most people know electricity must be treated with respect to avoid danger. But many members don’t realize that home electrical fires account for more than 50,000 fires each year in North America alone. That’s according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). It also reports those fires cause “nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.”
Those numbers are alarming. An equally distressing fact is these deaths, injuries and damages could probably have been prevented by homeowners’ awareness and easy actions.
It’s a good practice to be on the lookout for electrical dangers around your home. Dimming or flickering lights and tripping circuit breakers may be signs of an issue. Burning odors or buzzing or sizzling sounds can also alert you to electrical hazards. Additional indications of an electrical safety issue include outlets or switches that feel warm to the touch and burn marks or discoloration around a fixture, socket or plug.
Lowering your risk of an electrical fire may be as simple as throwing away damaged electrical cords, knowing how to properly use space heaters and being careful not to overload power strips. Replacing a faulty electrical receptacle can also help protect your family and home. ESFI reports that faulty receptacles are involved in 5,300 fires, 40 deaths and more than 100 injuries annually.
Changing the batteries in your smoke alarms annually is another simple but lifesaving action you can take. Of all home fire deaths, a reported 65 percent occur in homes with no working smoke detectors. Keeping an appropriately rated fire extinguisher in a convenient location could mean the difference between life and death.
You may also want to hire a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s electrical system and correct any related safety issues. This extra precaution could protect you from serious or deadly harm.
Home fire accidents can still happen, no matter how careful you are. Be sure you have an emergency plan beforehand that includes ways to escape. Familiarize everyone who lives in your home with the plan, and in the event of a fire, get out of the home as quickly and safely as possible. Then, call 9-1-1 and do not go back into the home until the fire department says it is safe to do so.
Helping you prevent electrical fires — both inside and outside your home — is another important way your hometown electric cooperative is always here for you.