May is Electrical Safety Month. This national campaign, which was introduced in the mid-1990s, aims to raise awareness and educate the public on electric safety tips to avoid potential electrical hazards, reducing risks of property loss and accidental injuries and fatalities.
Annually supported by Electrical Safety Foundation International and the National Fire Protection Association Electrical Safety Month is the perfect time to assess your home’s potential electrical hazards.
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Costs of Electrical Hazards
One of the major dangers associated with electrical hazards are fires. Each year, electrical malfunctions account for 35,000 home fires, causing over 1,130 injuries, 500 deaths and $1.4 billion in property damage, according to the NFPA.
Electrical hazards exist in numerous spots around the home. Electrical fires can spark from issues in wiring and electrical distribution systems. Common household appliances can also pose some risks. Equipment powered by electricity, like cooking and heating appliances, lighting, washers, dryers, office and entertainment equipment can all become potential electrical hazards if misused or improperly maintained.
Assessing Your Home’s Risks
Being aware of of potential hazards is half of the battle, and you don’t have to be an expert to spot an electrical problem.
There are several warning signs of overloaded electrical systems, including frequently blowing fuses, tripping circuit breakers and lights dimming when other devices are used. If you hear a buzzing sound coming from outlets or switches, or they are warm to the touch, you could have an overloaded electrical system.
If your home is over 40 years old or you recently had a major appliance installed, you should have your place of residence inspected by a licensed electrician. Your home may need to have new circuits installed in order to meet appliances’ demands.
If you find yourself relying regularly on extension cords and/or power strips, it’s likely your home doesn’t have enough outlets to suit your needs. Consider having additional outlets installed. While do-it-yourself projects are growing in popularity, when it comes to electrical work, “hiring a qualified, licensed electrician” is strongly recommended by ESFi.
Taking Everyday Precautions
One of the first things you can do to give yourself some peace of mind is installing and maintaining your home’s smoke detectors. Making sure you have enough fire alarms for your home’s size and that they’re placed in the right locations can help save lives. Testing your detectors once a month, changing batteries at least once a year and replacing them every 10 years can help you combat house fires, electrical and otherwise.
One of the most important electrical safety tips is to always make sure to childproof outlet covers and other hazardous areas if they can be easily reached by tiny hands.
Lighting and Appliances
Improper use of electronics can lead to issues like damaging your devices and appliances as well as increasing the chances electrical risks will happen.
A best practice of electric safety it to regularly inspect electrical cords for damage, like sharp bends and cracks. Contact with a single strand of exposed wire can result in an electrical burn or shock. If a device’s power cord is damaged, stop using it.
Never place anything flammable too close to lamps or other heat-producing appliances. Though it may seem like common sense, it’s still an electrical safety tip worth mentioning. Loose curtains and drapes can be moved by fans, drafts and people or pets walking by. Photos, posters, maps and other wall hangings can fall down, making contact with an appliance or loosening wires.
Use light bulbs with the correct wattage for a specific appliance. Invest in energy efficient lighting and appliances, and unplug devices when they’re not being used. These acts will not only reduce the risk of electrical hazards, they will help you save money too.
Avoid overloading outlets and running cords under rugs, doors or windows. Not only could they become a tripping hazard, covered cords can overheat, becoming potential fire hazards.
The Dos and Don’ts of Extension Cords
Never use an extension cord that becomes warm or is damaged; exposed wire is dangerous. You also want to make sure you are using the right kind of extension cord; there are different types for indoor versus outdoor use. And don’t plug major appliances into an extension cord — plug them directly into a wall outlet instead. Extension cords are not intended for permanent use.
Preparing for Natural Disasters and Storms
When storms or natural disasters are in the forecast, the risk of losing power reminds us how dependent we are on electricity. Before a storm hits, charge necessary devices, like cell phones.
Natural disaster also increase the risk of electrical hazards. If flooding is possible, consider unplugging electronics and moving them as high as possible to avoid water damage. Carry essential devices in plastic bags or other waterproof containers.
If you’re outside when a storm rolls in, stay 10 feet away from fallen overhead power lines. Call your area’s electrical company and/or emergency services to alert them of the issue. If you are in your car when a wire falls, stay inside your vehicle.
Practicing electric safety in and around your home can help save lives and lessen financial loss.
Do you have any other electrical safety tips to add? Share them in the comments.
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