7 tips to prevent electrical fires at home
Electrical fires can do some serious damage to your home and put your family’s safety at risk. The good news is electrical fires, like other household fires, are often preventable. Here are a few things you can do around your home to help prevent an electrical fire:
- Keep heat-producing appliances unplugged when not in use. When heat-generating appliances malfunction or are accidentally left on for an extended period of time, they can overheat and catch on fire. It’s safest to unplug kettles, curling wands, toasters, irons, and other “hot” appliances when you’re not using them.
- Only use extension cords temporarily. Extension cords should be used as temporary solutions only. If you need additional permanent power sources installed in your home, contact a qualified electrician.
- Never cut off the third prong on a power cord. The third prong (also known as the “ground”) is there for a reason: to protect you in the event of a power surge or other electrical malfunction. If your home only has two-prong outlets, consider having an electrician inspect your home’s electrical system to see if they can update your outlets to three-prong ones.
- Update your home’s electrical system. Knob-and-tube wiring, aluminum wiring, and 60-amp electrical systems (commonly found in older homes) tend to come with a greater risk of overheating. Consider upgrading to an electrical system that uses modern wiring materials (like copper, for example) and has at least 100 amps to reduce your chances of an electrical fire. Updating your home’s electrical system can help you save on insurance, too.
- Don’t plug in devices with damaged power cords. If you notice that a power cord is cracked, frayed, or has come loose from its plug, you should have it repaired before plugging it in again.
- Follow the directions that come with your appliances. Instruction manuals for appliances like microwaves and toasters rarely make it out of their boxes, but it’s a good idea to read the directions for new appliances and take note of any warnings or directions that could help prevent an electrical malfunction. Many appliances will also come with instructions on how you can register to be notified about recalls or other important information from the manufacturer.
- Don’t ignore signs of trouble. These signs may indicate that one of your appliances is overheating or that there is a problem with an electrical socket:
- Burn marks or discolouration around a socket, light switch, or light fixture
- An appliance, an outlet, or a power cord feels hot to the touch
- A burning smell when an item is plugged in or in use
- Electrical sparks each time you plug in a device
- You feel an electrical shock each time you plug in a device
- A light fixture flickers even after you have replaced the bulb
- One (or all) of your breakers frequently trips or your fuses regularly blow
If you notice one or more of these signs, stop using the outlet or device in question and contact an electrician right away.
These are just some of the steps you can take to help prevent electrical fires in your home. The Government of Canada has more helpful tips to consider, too.
Sometimes an electrical fire will break out despite your best efforts to prevent it, so it’s always a good idea to have a Class C fire extinguisher on hand and the right home or tenant insurance policy in place. To make sure you have the coverage you need to protect your home and your family in the event of a fire, contact your group’s insurance broker.
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