Category: Technology Written by Rebecca Smith
Based on statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration, 6.8 percent of an estimated 379,600 house fires in the United States in 2018 were caused by an electrical malfunction. A further 12.9 percent of all household fires were due to carelessness, malfunctioning equipment, or appliances. Fires resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and more than 11,000 injuries in that same year.
These numbers are frightening. Most of us rely heavily on electricity. It powers our electronics. It keeps us warm in the winter and cools in the summer. We use it for cooking our food, heating our water, and light our homes. It’s impossible to imagine what our lives would look like without electricity, but it’s still a powerful force, which means it can be dangerous. Taking the proper precautions to keep your family safe around electricity can save lives, so knowing electrical safety tips is essential.
Avoid Trip Hazards
Fires aren’t the only potential risk associated with electricity, although they receive the most media attention due to their destructive nature. Electrical cords are easy to trip over when located in an area that receives foot traffic. That may sound more inconvenient than dangerous, but according to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional, injury-related deaths worldwide. Falls are particularly risky for older adults. Only running power cords around the edges of rooms and never across an area where you or other residents of your home walk can help prevent a tragedy. It can be irritating to run power cords and cables behind furniture, and they often look unsightly, so consider buying a flat power cord that will rest more snugly against a wall.
Make Sure Your Smoke Detector Works
It can be tempting to remove the batteries from your smoke detector after the third time it goes off while you’re trying to cook. Please don’t do it. The early warning a smoke detector provides if there’s a fire is invaluable. Nearly 60 percent of house fire-related deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke detector, so ensure you have one with working batteries installed. If you live in a rental property, your landlord may be required to provide an approved smoke detector, but you’re likely responsible for its upkeep. Laws vary by state and region, so be sure to do your research.
Know Your Circuit Breaker
Understanding your circuit breaker's layout and function is vital for electrical safety, but when confronted with an issue, many people flip breakers and hope for the best. Don’t let this be you. Instead, clearly label each breaker with the area of your home it refers to. Always make sure to cut the power when you’re doing any electrical work, no matter how minor. Likewise, if you’re experiencing an electrical issue or abnormality, turn the power off sooner rather than later to prevent a problem from spiraling out of control. Older homes are more likely to have odd, out-of-date, or dangerous wiring. If you’re concerned, have an electrician inspect your home to ensure everything is in line with modern building codes. A small expense upfront can save you a lot of money later.
Don’t Use Damaged Cords
Never use a damaged power cord. If you notice that a cord or cable is damaged, replace it immediately. Damaged electrical cords are dangerous because they tend to overheat, which is a fire hazard. If you’re touching a damaged cord, you’re also at risk of receiving an unpleasant or dangerous electric shock. While damage due to heavy use or age is unavoidable, you can protect your power cords by keeping them away from areas where they could be stepped on, keeping them out of the elements, and unplugging them properly rather than yanking them out of an outlet by the cord. Never attempt to repair a power cord with electrical tape. If the cord cannot be removed or unattached to replace it, call an electrician.
Unplug Unused Appliances
Unplugging appliances you aren’t using and only plugging them in when you need them is a frustrating habit to build. You will probably find yourself wondering why your toaster or coffee maker isn’t working at least once, only to discover that it had been unplugged. It’s annoying and may cause tension if the people you live with aren’t on board with the project. However, appliances are both safer and more environmentally-friendly when they’re unplugged. Even when not in use, everything that’s plugged in still draws a little power. By unplugging appliances when you’re not using them, you can reduce your power bill. Unplugging appliances also protects them from potential power surges and reduces the risk of a fire breaking out.
With the proper safety precautions, you can keep yourself and your family safe from a variety of electricity-related hazards and maybe even save a bit of money. Many of these safety tips are fast and easy to implement, so try them today.
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