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Prevent home electrical fires 

HOME FIRES STARTED BY MALFUNCTIONING electric appliances and fixtures or faulty wiring kill nearly 500 Americans each year and cause $1.3 billion in property damage. Let’s count the ways this can happen: 

  • Improperly installed or outdated wiring. 
  • Faulty outlets. 
  • Loose connections between the wiring and switch, outlet or fixture. 
  • Exposed wires on cords, including extension cords and device cords. 
  • Problems with light fixtures, lamps and outdated appliances. 
  • Misuse of electrical cords or outlets, such as running cords under rugs or overloading circuits and outlets with extension receptacles, causing them to overheat. 
  • Don’t ignore these problem areas and other troubling signs. If you experience dimming or flickering lights, unusual burning odors, unusual buzzing or sizzling sounds, or circuit breakers that trip repeatedly, contact a qualified electrician immediately. 

Prevention first 

Many electrical fires can be prevented simply by following safe practices, as noted in the chart at right. 

Further, installing smoke detectors is a proactive way to help keep the home and family safe in case of a fire. Put them in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of a home and test them regularly. 

Home fire safety  You can make your home safer by learning the basic principles and the dangers you should avoid. 
Have your home inspected by a qualified electrician to ensure all electrical work is up to code, especially if it’s older than 20 years. 
Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. They should be tested monthly, and batteries should be replaced each year. Replace alarms every 10 years, or according to manufacturer suggestions on the alarm. 
Do not overload outlets. Power strips do not provide more power to a location, only more access to the same limited capacity of the circuit to which they are connected. 
Install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) to safeguard against arc faults, which could cause a fire. 
Keep heat-producing appliances unplugged when not in use. 
Use extension cords only as a temporary solution and never run them through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors. 
Immediately unplug an appliance that repeatedly blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker and have it repaired or replaced. 
Install tamper resistant receptacles to prevent electrical shocks and burns. 
Don’t ignore warning signs of trouble: flickering lights, odd odors, unusual buzzing sounds. 

Devise a fire escape plan for your family and practice it regularly. Make sure any fire extinguishers are labeled for Class C, or electrical fires. Multipurpose extinguishers can be used on different types of fires and will be labeled with more than one class, like A-B-C.

KYLE CLEVENGER is the Manager of Operations at Grayson RECC.

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