Preventing Electrical Fires

Jan 01, 2011
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electrical fire

An electrical fire is any fire that is caused by electrical short circuits, overloaded circuits or faulty electrical equipment. Anything that causes excessive current flow has the ability to create fire, including lighting — the number one cause of overloaded circuits. Make sure you don't have an outdated circuit breaker box by finding an electrician to check it for you.

How to Prevent an Electrical Fire?

The first thing you can do as a homeowner to prevent an electrical fire is to keep from overloading your circuits.

Follow these tips to prevent your circuit breaker from overloading:

  • Identify the circuits in the breaker box. The breaker box usually tells the amperage of each circuit as well as the outlets serviced by the circuit.
  • Maintain wires, appliances and electrical fixtures. Another item to put on your list of things to do as a homeowner is to maintain your appliances and make sure the wiringin your home is updated. This may require the services of a qualified electrician.
  • Appliances that malfunction may cause an electrical fire, so make sure your appliances are working properly. If you have an electrical appliance that you know is overheating or short-circuiting, shut off the breaker before you unplug the appliance. Electricity takes all paths to the ground, even if that means through you.
  • Ask an electrician about installing ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in your home. GFCIs quickly shut off power when problems occur, minimizing electrical shock hazards.

What to do in the Event of an Electrical Fire?

In case of an electrical fire, make sure you do not use water to try to put out the fire. If the fire is small and confined, such as in the case of an extension cord that you see is starting to smoke and catch on fire, turn off the circuit at the breaker, then unplug thecord and use an ABC fire extinguisher to put out any flames. If no appropriate fire extinguisher is available, you can also use baking soda to extinguish an electrical fire. Typically, an overloaded circuit will flip a breaker. If you know a circuit is being overloaded but the breaker didn't trip, if you can safely do so, you should turn off thebreaker yourself — or flip the main breaker to the whole house. If you have had a fire, find an electrician to evaluate whatyou'll need to replace and do to prevent another fire.

Don't take matters into your own hands when it comes to electrical fires — call 9-1-1immediately, and make sure everyone leaves the building.

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