According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), there are over 51,000 home electrical fires annually. These fires are responsible for over 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage every year. Based on these statistics, it’s clear that electrical fires pose a serious threat to your family’s safety. But how do electrical fires start? Here’s what you need to know:
What Are the Common Causes of Electrical Fires?
The key to preventing electrical fires in your home is learning how these tragedies occur. The most common causes of electrical fires are:
- Faulty Wiring
- Extension Cords
- Overloading the Electric System
- Light Fixtures
Faulty wiring is the leading cause of residential electrical fires in the U.S. The electrical wires in your home may start to go bad as a result of age or improper installation. Mice, rats, and squirrels can also cause damage by chewing through the wires.
To protect your home, make sure you hire an electrician to perform all electric work. You should also have your wiring inspected periodically if it is old to ensure you can identify problems before they cause electrical fires.
Extension cords are convenient and practical, but they could cause electrical fires if they aren’t used correctly. Some extension cord mistakes that lead to electrical fires include:
- Using old or damaged extension cords.
- Placing extension cords in areas where they could sustain damage, such as under rugs or in doorways.
- Relying on extension cords all the time.
- Plugging major appliances into extension cords.
Avoiding these mistakes could save your home and keep your family safe.
Overloading the Electric System
The electrical system in your home could catch fire if it is expected to provide more power than it is capable of producing. To avoid this problem, follow these rules:
- Don’t plug too many devices into outlets or power strips at once.
- Only plug one heat-producing device into an outlet at a time.
- Unplug appliances and devices that are not in use.
- Use power strips that are designed with internal overload protection.
- Don’t force a three-pronged plug into a two-prong outlet.
Following these tips can keep your electrical system in good condition and prevent electrical fires.
Don’t install a light bulb without checking the light fixture’s maximum recommended light bulb wattage. If you install a light bulb with a wattage that is too high for the fixture, an electrical fire could occur.
What Are the Warning Signs Of An Electrical Fire?
It’s important to know how to spot the warning signs that an electrical fire could break out in your home. Some of the warning signs include:
- Burning smell. If you smell something burning, this indicates that the electrical wiring in your home has been damaged.
- Warm outlets. Power outlets should not feel warm to the touch. If an outlet feels warm, it needs to be serviced by an electrician right away.
- Flickering lights. Faulty wiring could cause the lights in your home to flicker or dim at random.
- Circuit breaker trips. The circuit breaker will shut down the power in your home if it is overloaded. It’s normal for this to happen once in awhile, but if it happens regularly, there is an electrical issue that needs to be addressed.
- Discolored outlets. Discoloration on an outlet indicates charring, which means the wiring behind the wall is releasing too much heat.
- Sparks. There is a problem with your electrical system if sparks fly every time you plug something into an outlet.
If you spot these signs, call an emergency electrician as soon as possible.
What to Do If There Is An Electrical Fire In Your Home
Preventing electrical fires is crucial, but you should also prepare for the worst. Here’s what to do in the event there is an electrical fire in your home:
- Call 9-1-1. Call the fire department for assistance as soon as you spot an electrical fire.
- Prioritize your safety. If the fire is large or you are unable to put it out, put your safety and the safety of others first and exit your home.
- Disconnect power. Either unplug the device or appliance that is responsible for the fire or completely turn off your home’s electricity.
- Do not use water to put out the fire if the electricity is still on. Doing this will create an electrocution hazard. You can use water once the electricity has been turned off.
- Cover small electrical fires in baking soda, which will ensure the fire does not have access to the oxygen it needs to grow.
- Use class C or ABC fire extinguishers to put out the fire. These extinguishers are the only ones that are designed for use on electrical fires.
To minimize damage, make sure everyone in your family knows what to do if an electrical fire occurs inside your home.
Protect Your Loved Ones By Preventing Electrical Fires
Electrical fires can cause catastrophic damage, but fortunately, there are ways to prevent them. Use the information in this guide to protect your loved ones—and your home—by preventing electrical fires.