May’s designation as National Electrical Safety Month makes it a good time to review electrical hazards and think about how to keep common household dangers at bay.
Each year, electrical malfunctions account for 35,000 home fires causing more than 1,130 injuries, 500 deaths and $1.4 billion in property damage, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International. Because the average American home was built in 1977, many can’t keep up with the demands of today’s electrical appliances and devices.
To help prevent adding to the sobering statistics about electrical dangers, watch for the warning signs of an overloaded electrical system, which include:
- Frequent circuit breaker trips or blown fuses.
- Lights dimming when other devices are turned on.
- Buzzing sounds from switches or outlets.
- Discolored outlets.
- Appliances that seem underpowered.
To maintain an electrically safe home, be sure that the following safety devices are installed according to updated codes:
- Arc-fault circuit interrupters protect against electrical fires caused by malfunctions.
- Surge protective devices safeguard against surges that can damage or reduce the life spans of electrical systems and devices.
- Ground-fault circuit interrupters protect against electric shock.
- Tamper-resistant receptacles have an internal shutter system to prevent foreign objects from being inserted into an outlet.
About 3,300 home fires are started by extension cords every year, so it’s important to follow these safety tips:
- Don’t substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
- Don’t run cords through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors. If a cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which is a fire hazard.
- Don’t use an extension cord for more than one appliance.
- Make sure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products it powers and is marked for either indoor or outdoor use.
- Don’t use a cord that has a lower rating than the appliance or tool you are plugging in.
- Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way.
- Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots.
- Ensure your extension cord has a polarized or three-prong plug.