Electricity has made our lives easier and so much more fun. We no longer scrub clothes on a board. We enjoy frozen foods out of season and push a button to make the perfect cup of coffee. Our homes are cozy in winter and cool in summer. We watch movies, listen to music, play animated games – and read websites – all by just plugging something in.
It seems so simple – and because it does, many consumers often lose sight of the dangers electricity can pose when not properly installed, operated or serviced. The National Fire Protection Association’s latest figures report that electrical failure or malfunction caused nearly 48,000 home structure fires in the U.S. between 2007 and 2011. These fires resulted in $1.5 billion in direct property damage and 455 civilian deaths. In addition to fire, electricity can be the cause of serious or deadly shock if mishandled.
Most electrical fires and injuries can be prevented with proper safety precautions. As Ben Franklin learned once or twice, electricity isn’t a toy. To keep your home and your family safe, Able Electric urges you to follow these guidelines:
- Because our bodies are mostly water, we are excellent conductors of electricity. Stay away from all sources of live current!
- Know the types of circuit breakers, fuses and even light bulbs your home uses and replace them with the correct parts when needed.
- Never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water or while you are running water nearby, such as in your bathroom.
- Do not overload circuits with too many plugs. This can especially be a problem in older homes, which were built before we used so many appliances. The safest protection is to have an electrician install new wiring and circuit breakers. If your house has aluminum wiring, have it replaced with copper.
- If your electrical equipment gets wet, call an electrician to inspect it before re-energizing it. Never try to retrieve appliances that have fallen in water until you’re sure the power supply is off.
- Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in your outlets.
- Be sure every electrical product is UL-listed. This endorsement by Underwriters Laboratories ensures your appliance meets optimal safety standards.
- Cover any unused sockets or outlets, especially if you have small children.
- Assume that all electrical wires are active and never touch them, even if they’re insulated.
- Similarly, never touch a fallen overhead power line. Call your electrical company if you see fallen wires.
- If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle while you’re driving, stay inside the vehicle and drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, stay in the vehicle. Do not touch – and do not allow others to touch – either the wire or the vehicle. Metal conducts electricity.
- Call a qualified electrician to repair electrical equipment that is sparking, short-circuiting or issuing small shocks, is warm at the outlet or has a damaged cord. Frayed wiring is a major risk of electrical fire. Never try to repair damaged wiring yourself.
Electrical power is core to our 21st-century living, and we’re reminded how much we depend on it when an outage knocks it out. If we treat it responsibly, electricity is perfectly safe and will only enhance our lives.