STOW, MA — “May is Electrical Safety Month. Take a few minutes to look around for electrical hazards in your home and correct them,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “Look for overloaded outlets; make sure heat generating appliances are plugged directly into outlets, not power strips or extension cords; make sure electrical cords are not running underneath rugs or pinched behind furniture; and laptops and phones are charged only on hard surfaces, not on beds or sofas.” he added.
Don’t Overload Circuits or Daisy Chain Extension Cords and Power Strips
One way to prevent electrical fires is to practice electrical safety. Fires often start when too many things are plugged into a single outlet or circuit, overloading them. Another frequent cause is using extension cords, especially with appliances that generate heat like space heaters, irons, and toasters. Extension cords are designed for temporary use, but many people leave them in place permanently and forget about them.
Don’t Charge Your Cell Phone or Laptop in Bed
There have been a number of fires from cell phones charging underneath pillows and laptops left running on top of the bed covers. Cell phones and laptops are always processing when running or charging. Blocking or covering them can prevent air from cooling the batteries and lead to a fire. Failures of lithium ion batteries are more likely to occur during recharging. These devices should be charged while on a hard surface.
Give Electrical Systems a Tune-Up Every 10 Years
The need to plug many things into a single outlet or reliance on extension cords are signs to have an electrician review your system. Fire officials recommend having a licensed electrician review a home’s electrical system every ten years. Small upgrades and simple safety checks like making sure outdoor grounds and connections are secure can prevent larger problems.
Hire a Licensed Electrician
“Hire a licensed electrician who knows the code. Resist doing your own electrical work unless you are a licensed electrician,” said Ostroskey.
Keep Furniture from Pinching Cords
A cord can easily become pinched by heavy furniture and over time will lead to a fire. Don’t run cords underneath rugs; it’s both a trip and a fire hazard. Unplug appliances by grasping the plug; don’t pull by the cord.
Know the Warning Signs
“Call your local fire department immediately if you have warning signs such as arcs, sparks, or short circuits,” advises State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Other warning signs include hearing a sizzling or buzzing sound or smelling a vague odor of something burning. Immediate attention to these signs can save lives,” he added, “Firefighters can use thermal imaging technology to see excessive heat inside the walls.”
Call a professional electrician soon if you have any of these warning signs:
- Frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers;
- Dim or flickering lights, bulbs that wear out too fast;
- Overheated plugs, cords or switches;
- Shock or mild tingle – more than normal static electricity;
- Loose outlets or unusually warm or faulty outlets or switches.
36 Deaths in Electrical Fires 2013-2017
From 2013 to 2017, Massachusetts fire departments responded to 2,704 home fires caused by electrical problems. These fires caused 36 civilian deaths, 101 civilian injuries, 303 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $196 million. Electrical fires were the number one or the number two cause of fire deaths from 2013-2017.
For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 1-877-9 NO FIRE or on-line at www.mass.gov/dfs and look for Fire Safety for the Public.
(NOTE: The above press release is from the State Fire Marshal.)
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