Electrical Fires and How to Prevent Them

Electrical Fires and How to Prevent Them

Electrical Fires and How to Prevent Them

According to the US Fire Administration statistics for 2015, an estimated 389,900 fires were from electrical causes.

Top 5 Electrical Fire Causes

1. Faulty appliances or electrical cords
2. Problems with light fixtures
3. Extension cords
4. Space heaters
5. Wiring issues

Electrical fires are perhaps the most dangerous type of fire situations since they not only involve danger from the fire itself, but they involve the additional risk from electric shock. Here are some basic facts of why these fires happen and how to take proactive steps to prevent electrical fires in residences, businesses and on farms.

Faulty Appliances or Electrical Cords

Worn, outdated or poorly repaired appliances, power tools etc. are dangerous not only for fire reasons but for the possibility of deadly electric shock to users. Too many power tools have older power cords that someone spliced and taped. The risk here is that the cord would get pulled apart causing a fire. Continuing to use electrical cords that are frayed or broken can cause electrical fires. Older cords have brittle insulation that can break easily, exposing the inner wires. Likewise, replaced plugs can separate and lead to shock and/or fire. The bottom line here is that regular upkeep of electrical cords is essential for fire safety. Not only do we recommend keeping an eye on electrical appliances before using them, we also want to stress how important it is to pay attention to your appliances while they are in use. Appliances, such as coffee pots or hair styling irons, left on for long periods of time are serious points of danger.

Light Fixtures

As strange as it might sound, lighting fixtures can also be a potential site for fires. Particularly in work/shop areas, lighting devices can trap dust and debris. If this dust or debris gets too hot or comes in contact with a spark, they can ignite. Furthermore, using light bulbs that are higher than the specified wattage can cause overheating and fire. Remember that fire needs heat, oxygen, and fuel to live. So, overheated lights can create the perfect storm for a fire. With this in mind, it is essential that you never leave heat lamps unattended – even to thaw pipes or heat areas with animals. Consider if the heat lamp were to overheat! This is even more of a danger if there are combustible materials such as straw, hay, or dust by the heated lamp. Heated lamps are an incredible invention! We’re a Minnesota based company, we love anything that will keep us warm in the winters! But, we need to remember to exercise caution when using electrical appliances – especially anything that gives off heat.

Extension Cords and Surge Protectors

Extension cords and surge protectors tempt the user to add as many appliances as possible – which can be a great solution to efficiency, but a major fire hazard and threat to safety. . Overloaded extension cords and surge protectors can overstress outlets. Even though they help us get more done with the outlets we have in our allotted spaces, practice caution when using electrical cords. Likewise, with surge protectors, always plug them directly into the wall. A surge protector should never be plugged into another surge protector. Extension cords and surge protectors can also create threats as tripping hazards, which could cause them to be pulled out of walls, etc. Should you decide to cover your cords with a rug or carpet, exam your cords carefully to ensure they are not frayed or worn. Remember, damaged cords are a fire hazard, and should they be covered with a combustible material, that is a quick recipe for a major fire.

Space Heaters

Did we mention we love products that give off a little warmth? It gets really cold up here in the winter, so we are big fans of space heaters! Space heaters create excellent additions to shops, barns, homes! But, like any appliance that gives off heat, they have their own fire risks. As with any electrical appliance, be sure that your space heater’s cords have not frayed or been damaged. When using your space heater, keep it directly on the ground. Never put it on top of a desk or bench. Only plug space heaters into a wall – not into a surge protector. Space heaters can be prone to tip over. Keep flammables outside of a three foot radius from your space heater. You want that clear space so nothing overheats and catches ablaze. When you have finished using your space heater in a room, turn it off. Never leave a space heater unattended.

Wiring

Much of a structure’s wiring is behind walls. Rodents and birds can chew wires and cause fire risks. DIY wiring is a serious problem on farms and ranches. The temptation to “fix” a wiring problem opens up serious danger. Saving money by having a friend do wiring or doing it yourself can lead to serious expense and violation of insurance policies. We recommend having a professional stop by to ensure there is no added potential for fire hazards.

Fire Prevention is Key

Preventing electrical fires is a priority in managing property. Here are some tips on how to prevent electrical fires.

  • Make a checklist and perform regular inspections of electrical fixtures, outlets, and wiring, and have a qualified and licensed professional make all repairs. Install GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) type outlets to prevent shock or fire causing hazards from electric current.
  • Avoid use of extension cords and unplug them as soon as the task is finished.
  • Get rid of outdated appliances and replace them with UL approved tools.
  • Train residents, staff, and employees how to deal with an electrical emergency. Check the locations of circuit breakers.
  • Replace powder fire extinguishers with STOP-FYRE® extinguishers. STOP-FYRE® is non-conductive and non-corrosive, so it is safe to use on electronics, while powder extinguishers can be highly conductive – making an electrical fire worse than it was to start with!
  • Create policies and procedures for using power tools, appliances, and space heaters. Businesses and farms should do an end-of-day walkthrough inspection to verify that conditions are safe.
  • Maintain and inspect smoke and heat detectors on a scheduled basis and have extinguishers ready and available at key locations around your operation. While having extinguishers is half the battle, it is also essential that every person on your operation knows how to operate a fire extinguisher. Take the time to train all of your staff on how to use them.
  • Post maps with evacuation routes and the locations of circuit breakers and extinguishers around your operation. Create a plan for fire emergencies and make sure all employees and the local Fire Department have a copy.

Electrical fire risks can be greatly reduced by paying attention to possible causes and taking precautions with electrical equipment and appliances. Being proactive in prevention is a full-time responsibility and one that must be taken seriously.