The following is a press release from the State Fire Marshal's office:
May is National Electrical Safety Month, and State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and FireChiefs’ Association of Massachusetts President Paul Zbikowksi want to raise awareness aboutpotential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical safety.
Coan said, “Our electrical needs are constantly growing so it is important to have a professionalcheck-up of the electrical systems in our homes, just like taking the car to the mechanic. Whilemajor repairs can be costly, minor tune-ups can keep the system in good shape for a long time.”
Chief Zbikowski said, “We offer the following tips to ensure a safe spring for you and yourfamilies:
• When unplugging an appliance do so by grasping the plug end not by pulling on the cordas this over time can cause the cord to fail;
•Make sure you have ground fault circuit breakers installed in your bathroom and kitchen;
•Have a licensed electrician properly install your swimming pool power connections;
•When leaving laptop computers, iPads and cell phones charging, have them on a solidsurface such as a desk or countertop. Leaving them on a couch or chair can cause them tooverheat and catch the material on fire; and
•Be sure electrical cords are not pinched by furniture.”
690 Electrical Fires Caused 4 Civilian Deaths
In 2010, local fire departments reported that there were 690 structure fires caused by electricalproblems in Massachusetts. These fires caused four civilian deaths, one fire service death, 34civilian injuries, 89 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $30.1 million, accountingfor 15% of the total dollar loss to fire in 2010. The average loss per fire was $43,583.
AFCIs, GFCIs and TRRs: Simple Safety Steps
Fire officials wish to remind consumers about the importance of home safety devices thatprovide safety enhancements without requiring major renovations. These devices include arcfault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and tamper resistantreceptacles (TRRs). AFCIs replace standard circuit breakers in the home’s electrical servicepanel and provide a higher level of electrical fire protection by detecting hazardous arcingconditions and shutting down the electricity before a fire can start. Installing ground fault circuitinterrupter receptacles can help prevent electrocutions in the home when installed near watersuch as kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors. TRRs look just like ordinary outlets, but are designedwith spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the receptacle openings, or slots. Thismakes it hard for young children to stick anything into the outlet.
Watch For Warning Signs
Coan said, “Watch for warning signs of electrical problems such as
• Fuses blowing or circuit breakers tripping frequently.
• Unusually warm or faulty outlets or switches.
• A vague smell of something burning.
• A sizzling sound in the wall.
Any of these signs may indicate a potential problem. Contact a licensed electrician if younotice any of these signs, or contact the local fire department. Many departments now have newtechnologies such as thermal imaging cameras that can ‘see’ heat inside walls to detect potentialproblems before they expand and extend to other parts of the building.
Fuses and circuit breakers are safety devices. They blow or trip when the amount of currentcannot safely travel through the wires. Trying to bypass the fuse or circuit breaker protection isan invitation to danger.
Electrical Systems Pose Unseen Dangers
Just as all systems need maintenance and inspection, so does electrical wiring. As switches,receptacles and connections age, heat is generated and the risk of fires inside walls and at poorconnections greatly increases. Because wiring is often hidden behind walls, electrical faults maybe hard to detect, except by properly trained electricians.
Have Electrical Systems Examined by a Licensed Electrician Every 10 Years
Have electrical systems examined by a licensed electrician every 10 years. A good electricianwill look for electrical faults, check for warm switch plates and receptacles, and analyze the useof electricity to see if additional capacity is needed. It is important to help our homes keep upwith the electrical demands of our changing lifestyles, changes in society and new technologies.
For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Office of the StateFire Marshal at 1-877-9 NO FIRE or on-line at www.state.ma.us/dfs and look for Fire SafetyTopics.