The winter months are almost upon us, and that means cold weather and shorter days, even in Atlanta. And cold weather and darkness mean that we’ll begin to rely on out lights and heat even more – in short, we’ll be using more electricity. Since we’re cruising right along through November, it’s not a bad time to discuss a danger that comes from electricity – electrical fires. The winter months actually have some of the highest occurrences of electrical fires, which is why it’s important to make sure you have enough home insurance. But, insurance aside, we’ve got some tips to help you prevent a home electrical fire this winter.
1. Check your appliances and cords.
Old, worn, or fraying cords can cause fires. You should replace and dispose of worn or ragged cords ASAP. You should also make sure that no cords are trapped by rugs or hidden by furniture. This can cause heat to build up, and heat can cause a fire – you don’t actually need a spark or flame, just a lot of trapped heat.
2. Be smart about outlets.
Don’t force a three-pronged cord into a two-prong outlet or extension cord. That’s not how that cord was designed to be used.
3. Plug major appliances directly into the wall.
Air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, and other appliances should be plugged directly into the wall, not into an extension cord. Keep your appliances in good repair, and keep an eye on your clothes dryer – believe it or not, clothes dryers are fire hazards. Remember, all appliances should be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory.
4. Don’t overload circuits, extension cords, or outlets.
You don’t want to put a strain on circuits or extension cords. Don’t try to make these things handle a load that it wasn’t designed to.
5. Remember that water and electricity don’t mix.
Keep appliances away from places that tend to get wet, like kitchen and bathroom counters. Don’t take any chances. Make sure not to let your appliances get doused.
6. Keep an eye on switches or lights that act suspect.
If any of your light switches are warm to the touch, any lights flicker, or any outlets look strange or discolored, you should call a professional to check out the situation. You should also call a qualified electrician if any appliances have a burning or rubbery odor or you feel a tingle when you touch them. Outlets that spark or are warm – or are otherwise dangerous-looking – should also be investigated by an electrician ASAP.
7. Use arc-fault circuit interrupters and ground fault circuit insulators.
AFCIs will turn off the electricity if something isn’t as it should be. GFCIs will reduce the risk of shock by turning off the circuit if there is a shock hazard. Bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and basements should be equipped with GFCI outlets.
8. Keep flammable items away from your portable heaters.
Anything that could catch fire should be placed at least three feet away from the space heater. That includes clothes, linens, and furniture.
9. Child-proof electrical outlets.
If you have young children, make sure that you’ve safely child-proofed your outlets. Use a child-proofing method that is safe and won’t present a choking hazard. It’s important to know how to child-proof your home.
10. Replace any suspicious power tools.
If any power tools act weird, like sparking or otherwise being dangerous, get rid of them and replace them.
11. Only use light bulbs with the appropriate wattage.
Don’t use a light bulb with a higher wattage or strength than a lamp or other light calls for. It’s important to use the right light bulb for the right appliance. Stick with what the lamp is designed to do.
12. Make sure that you have enough smoke detectors and that they do what they’re supposed to.
It’s so important that you have the proper smoke detectors installed in your home. There should be one outside every bedroom, and you should test them regularly to make sure that they’re working like they’re supposed to. It’s also important to remember to change the batteries every six months – an easy way to make sure that you don’t forget is to do it every Daylight Saving, whenever you change the clocks forward or back. Don’t neglect your smoke detectors. (And, while you’re at it, you may as well add some carbon monoxide detectors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.)
Before winter really sets in and you turn on all your heaters and appliances, take some time to check over your electrical cords and appliances. Don’t forget your fire prevention basics and spend some time talking to your kids about fire safety. Make sure that your home or apartment is fire-safe and ready to weather the winter months.
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