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For various reasons, people spend more time indoors than they do outdoors. One of such reasons is seen when winter comes and it typically means more time would have to be spent indoors. This often requires the use of more electricity to heat our homes. During this period, we also make use of power devices to keep us entertained and help us light up the environment during the holidays. During this time or any other, we are exposed to the danger of electrical fire outbreaks where adequate care and precautions are not taken. As it is so frequently used, the risk potential and dangers associated with the use of electricity are often underestimated.
Why is it Necessary to Understand How to Respond to Electrical Fire Outbreaks?
It has been estimated that up to one-third of all home structure fire outbreaks are a result of electrical mishaps. This is so because they are usually more difficult to identify and they are also more destructive and dangerous than the other types of fire outbreaks.
It is our collective responsibility in any community to know and understand the tips for combating an electrical fire outbreak. These should come in handy in the case of an emergency because knowing what steps to take could be the difference between a small fire and a raging inferno.
How Electricity Causes House Fires
According to reports given by the USFA, most electrical fires start in parts of the home that are occupied. Up to 15.4% of the total outbreaks have been reported to come from the bedroom, 6.7% from the living room, and about 7.4% in the cooking area. These add up if you consider the fact that we make use of electronics in these areas of our home.
However, there are times such fire outbreaks occur in places that are rarely visited in a building or at home. For example, about 13% of electrical fires have been reported to start in the attic and 8.7% from within wall spaces. If you consider the materials that ignite first in electrical fires at home or elsewhere, you will see that this data matches up:
• Cable insulation and electrical wire – 30.9%
• Framing or structural member – 17.8%
• Floor/ceiling, acoustic thermal insulation within wall, partition – 7.2%
• The interior of wall covering - 5.5%
• Surface finish and exterior sidewall covering – 6.2%
As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, thinking of putting out an electrical fire should be a step taken as a last resort. It is always better and way easier to prevent its occurrence than trying to do damage control. Therefore, it is necessary to learn the following;
• Why and where electrical fires start
• Prevention tips against electrical fires
• Steps to safely extinguish an electrical fire
Prevention Tips Against Electrical Fires
To prevent electrical fires in homes and buildings, you would need to prevent the electronics you use from generating too much heat or releasing sparks. What this means in clearer terms is that you avoid overloading your circuits, making the electricity stay where it should. For you to successfully do this, you may need to understand the way your home’s electrical system works a bit better.
Many branch circuits will distribute electricity around your house. For example, one circuit may be assigned to your kitchen and the others to your bedrooms. The power transferred to these circuits will be controlled by the circuit breaker box which may be located in the garage or a closet. This electrical device allows electricians to cut off the power before they set out working and they are also useful for helping to prevent an electrical fire. As a safety measure, an electrical circuit gets broken when more than the electricity it can safely carry passes through it.
Benefits Of Hiring A Licensed Electrician
When bills are quickly piling up, there is the tendency to look for ways to reduce costs. There are a lot of things that could have their costs reduced at the home front but electrical works and fittings are not part of these. Preventing an electrical fire starts with contracting out the wiring work of your house to the right hands. The money you will end up cutting back is never worth the risk of using the wrong hands.
Licensed electricians have the prerequisite training that puts them in a position to handle electrical works of your house and this is the reason you should consult them. They know and will certainly follow building and electrical codes that will prevent heat and overloads in electrical circuits in your house. If you pay a somewhat higher price, you will know that you are at least paying for high-quality job execution that guarantees your safety.
How is the Heat that Leads to Fire Generated?
Heat is generated with circuit overload which is capable of igniting a fire. This situation can occur because of two things;
Firstly, it can occur when there are too many devices using too many amperes at the same time. An amp is the measure of the amount of electricity that flows through a circuit. When there is too much heat as a result of circuit overload, the integrity of the electrical circuit and the extension cords that may be used will be compromised.
A short circuit is the second cause of a circuit overload which has been implicated many times in electrical fires. Electrons flow through wires in an electrical circuit and they perform work in the appliances they are connected to. When there is little or no resistance to the flow of these electrons, then a short circuit occurs which in turn leads to circuit overload. This also ultimately leads to too much heat and fire sparks that can ignite a fire.
In the electrical world, it is a well-known fact that a power strip or an extension cord will pass for a useful tool any day. Unfortunately, these tools have been misused which has led to fire mishaps in so many places. These tools have limits and they should not be allowed to conduct more than the amount of current they are designed to carry.
Other Electrical Fire Prevention And Safety Tips Include;
• Use extension cords and power strips that are rated for amps and watts your devices should use.
• Use extension cords to serve only as short-term solutions
• Do not plug too many high-watt carrying devices into your power strip.
• Put in place child precautions wherever present so that accidental electrocution may be prevented.
• Do not use extension cords with air conditioners or heating units. Where this cannot be avoided, only use them temporarily.
• Only use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage for the lamp or the fixture
• If you notice any electrical failure, you need to pay attention to it and take the necessary steps.
• You need to inspect electrical devices periodically. Check to see if there is any fraying or wear on the electrical wires used in the house.
• Use portable heaters that are equipped with safety mechanisms that can shut them off in case of a power surge.
• Contact a licensed electrician if you perceive any funny smell or you see smoke coming from any appliance, plug, or cord.
Steps to Take When There is an Electrical Fire
You may have taken lots of precautions but find yourself in that ugly situation of an electrical fire outbreak. You must know exactly what needs to be done when this is the case. Do not try to be a hero during the outbreak of any type of fire. We already have firefighters filling up that role for us. If a fire has grown big, think safety for yourself and your family members first and try to call for firefighters.
If the outbreak is still in its early stage and you are certain you can handle it, then remember these tips and let them guide you.
• Disconnect the electricity supply - If it is safe to go near the device that caused the fire, try to power it off. You can make use of the breaker box which is another option for you at this stage.
• Add Sodium bicarbonate - You can apply baking soda as very small electrical fires can get smothered with its use.
• Get a fire extinguisher - Make use of the right type of fire extinguisher to fight the fire. For an electrical fire, you should go for Class C which is one of the standard ABC-rated fire extinguishers and it can be used to combat other types of fires.
• Cut out the oxygen supply – you can do this with the aid of some clothing or a heavy fire blanket. If the fire is small, it should be put out.
If on the other hand, the fire outbreak is more than what you can handle, these are the steps you are advised to take;
• Get out and fast too – you and your family members need to move out of the building as fast as possible. This is the surest way of preventing any form of injury or loss of life.
• Shut the door behind you so that the fire can be contained and prevented from spreading.
• Do not re-enter the house until the fire has been contained and the source identified to prevent a recurrence.
Now here is a warning you cannot disregard. Never use water in your attempt to extinguish live electrical fires. Water conducts electricity readily and when it is poured on an electrical fire, it can create dangerous fire sparks and even give electric shocks.
One of the safety measures you should consider installing in your home or in any building where the use of electrical appliances is inevitable is smoke detectors which are also known as smoke or heat sensors. What these devices do is that they buy you precious time for you to escape when there is a fire outbreak. It is recommended that you install it on the floor of every home, one in each bedroom and also outside the sleeping areas.
Ensuring the right hands are called for the electrical wiring of your house or calling on them at times when there are issues that require the expert service of electricians will give you the peace of mind which you deserve. The list of precautionary steps to prevent electrical fires cannot be exhausted but they all are equally important. For a long time, electrical fires have been posing great danger to human lives and properties. When they occur, the appropriate reactions can be used to combat them. This is what can minimise the risk of injury or even death.