Preventing Electrical Fires

electrical fire

An electrical fire is the dangerous result of 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. Learn how to stay safe with these electrical fire prevention tips.

Electrical Fire Prevention

The first thing you can do as a homeowner to prevent an electrical fire is to avoid overloading your circuits. Here's how:

  • 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 wiring in your home is updated. This may require the services of a qualified electrician.

  • Make sure your appliances are working properly. Appliances that malfunction may cause an electrical fire. 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 extinguish it.

If the fire is small and confined, such as in the case of an extension cord that you see is starting to smoke or spark, first turn off the circuit at the breaker, then unplug the cord 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 put out an electrical fire.

Typically, an overloaded circuit will flip a breaker. When you know a circuit is being overloaded but the breaker didn't trip, you should turn off the breaker yourself if you can safely do so — or flip the main breaker to the whole house.

In case of an electrical fire, make sure everyone leaves the house, and call 911 immediately.

If you have already had a fire, find an electrician to evaluate what steps you'll need to take for electrical fire prevention in the future.

Updated March 22, 2018.

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