HIDDEN HOME DANGERS: Electrical Hazards

What you need to know to keep your home and family safe.

Electricity. We depend on it, and yet take it for granted. We rely heavily on its stability, but think little of safety. Sadly, it confronts us when we are put in danger by it.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports just over 6% of all residential fires are electrical in nature, with an annual approximation of 24,000. That is nearly 66 electrical fires per day. What are the most common electrical hazards at home? How can you protect your home and your family from this hazard? And what should you do if an electrical fire does happen?

The most common electrical hazards are due to faulty wiring, stressed or overtaxed electrical circuits, exposure to water, outlets that are broken or exposing wiring, damaged or stressed cords, improperly matched light bulbs to wattage, appliance hazards, lack of or broken smoke alarms, and human intervention.

Protecting your home and your family is simply a matter of safety. Do not overload outlets, which can stress circuitry, or exceed recommended wattage allowances of lamps. This is a direct electrical fire hazard. Keep electrical cords clean, sorted, and free of debris, piles, or external heat sources which may ignite a fire. Check that appliances are working properly. Immediately respond to any odours or switch tripping, as these may be indicative of serious hazards. And it can not be overstated, check that smoke detectors are functioning properly, and replace batteries annually.

Despite the best safety measures, sometimes an unseen threat may result in an electrical fire. What should you do in case of an electrical fire? In short, remember, B,B,C,C.

  1. BREAKER: Disconnect electricity at the source: switch off the breaker, THEN unplug from the outlet, if this can be done safely. NEVER unplug an active wire that is compromised.
  2. BAKING SODA: Baking soda squelches an electrical fire by preventing it being fed more oxygen. NEVER, EVER use water on an electrical fire.
  3. CLASS C Fire Extinguisher: Only a Class C Fire Extinguisher should be used for an electrical fire, as fire extinguishers are rated for different purposes. Double check the rating on your fire extinguisher and familiarize yourself how to safely use it.
  4. CALL Emergency Services: Any fire can quickly get out of control. Be sensible, back away, and call for help. Emergency Services are trained how to safely deal with electrical fires.

As October is Fire Safety Month, why not make it an annual family activity to prepare mentally and physically in case of a fire. Testing detectors, checking wires, and reviewing and practicing safety measures and escape routes will educate and protect your home and family from this hidden home danger.