Flooding and Fire Safety
At this point in the year, everyone is looking forward to some nice spring weather. But with the amount of snow most of the Midwest has received this winter, flooding is a risk for many. Parts of South Dakota and Nebraska are currently experiencing devasting flooding due to record breaking amounts of snow melting and from the rainfall they have received recently. As the temperatures continue to rise and we get more rain, there is sure to be more flooding. But unfortunately, if you experience flooding, water damage should not be your only concern. You should also be aware of fire hazards due to flooding.
How Fires from Flooding Occur
Water causes damage and corrosion in electronics and electrical circuits. Corrosion is what creates resistance, which results in overheating of the circuit. Overheating then causes additional damage, and so the cycle continues. Eventually the circuit gets to the point where the conductors become so hot it ignites surrounding materials such as drapes, furniture, or carpet.
Water damage can also cause a short circuit arc that results in sparks and ultimately fire. In fact, most electrical fires are from some form of arcing. Arcing is what occurs when there is a break in an electrical circuit. This causes the current to jump across the gap, which produces sparks and high heat. A fire occurs in this case when the sparks connect with any surrounding combustible materials.
Electrical Safety During a Flood
Flood waters can contain mud that may deposit in your electronics which can cause overheating, malfunction, or failure. These waters can also contain others toxic substances such as fuels, solvents, cleaning chemicals, industrial chemicals, sewage, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. If these get heated, they could start fires and may release gas, carcinogens, allergens or poisonous fumes. Due to these hazards, we recommend being prepared with an extinguisher in case a fire does occur. We suggest our STOP-FYRE High Capacity extinguisher because it has the most fire fighting power. However, if you want something that is small, compact, and easy to carry on your hip, we suggest our STOP-FYRE Mini.
Some other dangers to be aware of when entering a flooded area also include drowning, open sump pits, underwater objects, chemical burns, poisoning and irritations to skin, sinuses or eyes. Due to these many hazards, we suggest avoiding contact with flood waters as much as possible. But if you have no other choice, and need to go in, always wear protective clothing and a mask as you never know what you may encounter.
You should also keep in mind when going into flooded waters that electricity can travel through various paths, which can electrocute those in touch with them. Electricity can travel through metal such as wiring, plumbing, or gas lines. It can even travel through water, and soaked ground or carpet. When it comes to electricity and flooding, the best thing to do is make sure it is turned off until you know that it is safe. As long as the electricity is on, electrocution and fire are a hazard to be aware of.
As a quick rule of thumb keep in mind the following:
- Never step in standing water that covers electrical outlets or devices. Water could already be charged with electric current that could be deadly.
- Do not enter a room if you hear popping or buzzing noises.
- Do not enter a room if you see sparks.
- If you see downed power lines, avoid them, and notify your local power provider immediately.
- Be on alert for an acrid or burning-plastic smell, which could indicate an electrical fire.
- Do not attempt to operate electrical equipment or appliances that have been in contact with water until a certified electrician says that it is safe.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby to prevent and minimize the dangers of fire.
Electrical Safety After a Flood
Electrical systems and their components remain at risk as long as moisture is present. Due to the fire hazard from wet electrical devices, it is best to treat all electrical appliances, equipment, and outlets with caution after flooding. Replace these items rather than trying to save them yourself. Be sure to replace outlets, switches, breaker boxes, appliances, heaters, furnaces, AC units, and anything else that may contain electric motors, switches, or wiring. If you’re not sure what to replace, you can always call a professional to come take a look.
Warning signs to be aware of before an electrical fire:
- Flickering or dimming lights indicate one or more poor connections, which can create hot spots and arcing.
- Blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers that are repeatedly occurring can mean there is an issue with a short circuit.
- Outlets emitting heat or smell. If your outlet has a burning smell or is hot to the touch, there is danger of electrical fire.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, please call a professional to address and fix it right away.
Why Flood and Fire Safety Matters
We don’t want you to become another statistic. We want to help you protect what matters most, when you need it most. Because according to the NFPA, US fire departments responded to an average of 45,210 home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction each year from 2010 to 2014. These fires caused an annual average of 420 civilian deaths, 1,370 civilian injuries, and resulted in $1.4 billion in direct property damage.
Most of the injuries and deaths seen with electrical fires happen to those when they are sleeping or trying to escape. If you are sleeping, you may not realize what is happening until it is too late. That is why it is so important to keep fire extinguishers in bedrooms so you can protect yourself and get to safety. But just having an extinguisher is not enough, you need to know how to properly use it in the event of a fire emergency.
In an emergency it can be easy to get flustered and confused, especially if you are just waking up. That is why we love STOP-FYRE; it is lightweight, compact, and so easy to use (even a 4-year-old can do it). All you need to do is pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, and use short targeted bursts. It is important to use short quick bursts because unlike other extinguishers a little goes a long way, as STOP-FYRE is a gas which expands to ultimately put out the fire.
As you prepare for the nice weather, and possible flooding in your area, we hope you add a fire extinguisher to your list of necessities. You never know when a fire could happen, they don’t make appointments.
Thank you so much for reading our article! We hope you learned a lot about flooding and fire safety. Make sure to check out our social media pages to participate in our contests this month. If you have any questions or would like to see a demo of STOP-FYRE, feel free to contact us here or call us at 800-586-1639.