Statistics indicate that each year over 40,000 home fires are caused by problems with home electrical wiring systems. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), within those 40,000 home fires, one person dies every 25 hours, thousands of injuries occur, and there is over $2 billion lost in property damage.
Outlets and Plugs
Check for outlets that have loose-fitting plugs, which can overhead and lead to fire.
Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock.
NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN’T FIT.
Plugs should fit securely into outlets.
Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.
Replace any missing or broken wall plates. Make sure there are safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children.
Make sure cords are in good condition – not frayed or cracked. Cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard, or to another object.
Do not place cords in high traffic areas, under carpets or rugs, or beneath furniture.
Check to see that cords are not overloaded. Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring.
Make sure extension cords have safety closures to help prevent young children from shock hazards and mouth burn injuries.
Check the wattage of all bulbs in light fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you don’t know the correct wattage, check with the manufacturer.
Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely – loose bulbs may overheat.
Circuit breakers and fuses should be the correct size current rating for their circuit. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the size to be used.
Always replace a fuse with the same size fuse.
If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker, or if it has given you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
Check to see that the equipment is in good condition and working properly. Look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs and connectors.
Use a surge protector bearing the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency.
Space heaters are meant to supply supplemental heat. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any combustible material such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture and rugs. Don’t use space heaters in rooms where children are unsupervised, and remember to turn off and unplug when not in use.
Halogen Floor Lamps
Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials. Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time and never use torchiere lamps in children’s bedrooms or playrooms.
Metal guards are now available for all halogen torchiere lamps. To obtain a free wire guard, visit one of the following stores in your area: B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Home Base, Home Depot, Home Quarters, Ikea, Kmart, Lowes, Office Depot, Target or Walmart.
Electric-powered mowers and other tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass, or in wet conditions.
Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed power cords, broken plugs, and cracked or broken housings. If damaged, stop using it immediately. Repair it or replace it.
Always use an extension cord marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools.
Remember to unplug all portable power tools when not in use.
Since metal ladders conduct electricity, watch out for overhead wires and power lines.
Remember – Water and Electricity Don’t Mix
During an electrical storm, do not use appliances (i.e. hairdryers, toasters, radios) or telephones except in an emergency.
Do not take a bath or shower.
Keep batteries on hand for flashlights and radios in case of a power outage. And use surge protectors on electronic devices and appliances.
Don’t leave plugged-in appliances where they might come in contact with water. If a plugged-in appliance falls into water, NEVER reach in to pull it out – even if it’s turned off. First turn off the power source at the panel board and then unplug the appliance.
If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, don’t use it until it has been checked by a qualified repairperson.
Understanding GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters)
There are three steps to be sure of your GFCI’s reliability:
1. Use only GFCIs that have been listed or certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or certification organization.
2. Have your GFCIs installed by a qualified electrician.
3. Test your GFCIs at least once each month or whenever there is an unusual occurrence such as a severe electrical storm.
What is a GFCI?
GFCIs can help prevent electrocution. They should be used in any area where water and electricity may come in contact. When a GFCI senses current leakage in an electrical circuit, it assumes a ground fault has occurred. It then interrupts power fast enough to help prevent serious injury from electrical shock.
An estimated 400 million GFCIs are installed across the country. Many consumers, however, don’t check their GFCIs to verify they are working. GFCIs are electronic devices that can be damaged or wear out. The electrical receptacles in a GFCI may continue to function, even if the GFCI circuit no longer works.
There are three types of GFCIs. The most often used “receptacle type” GFCI, similar to a common wall outlet, is the type with which most consumers are familiar. Additionally, circuit breaker GFCIs are often used as replacements for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all receptacles on that individual circuit. Temporary or “plug-in” GFCIs are frequently used in construction and in outdoor settings with electric tools, mowers, trimmers, and similar devices. They should not be used as a permanent alternative to a regular GFCI. Temporary GFCIs should be tested prior to every use.
Can consumers install GFCIs?
Consumers are encouraged to use a qualified electrician to install circuit breaker-type GFCIs. Individuals familiar with electrical wiring practices who can follow the instructions accompanying the device may be able to install receptacle-type GFCIs. Otherwise, these devices should be installed by an electrician or other knowledgeable person. The portable GFCI requires no special knowledge or equipment to install.
How should GFCIs be tested?
GFCIs should be tested monthly to ensure they are in working condition. Whether you have a receptacle-type or circuit breaker-type GFCI, pushing the TEST button should turn off the power of the circuit.
For the receptacle-type GFCI, pushing the TEST button should cause the RESET button to pop up. For the circuit breaker-type GFCI, pushing the TEST button should cause the handle to move to the tripped position.
Testing your receptacle GFCI
To be absolutely certain that your receptacle GFCIS are operating correctly, consumers should plug a nightlight or similar device into the outlet when conducting the following test:
• Push the “reset” button on the GFCI receptacle to prepare the unit for testing.
• Plug in the light and turn it on. Light should be ON.
• Push the “test” button on the GFCI receptacle. Light should go OFF.
• Push the “reset” button again. Light should go ON.
A light plugged into the GFCI receptacle should go out when the test button is pushed. If the light remains on when the button is pushed, either the GFCI is not working properly, or it has not been correctly installed.
Testing your circuit breaker GFCI
• Locate the circuit breaker box (usually in your basement, garage or utility room).
• Verify that the breaker toggle is in ON position.
• Press the TEST button on the circuit.
• The toggle switch should snap to the TRIPPED position.
• RESET and return the toggle to the ON position. Power will be restored.
If the circuit breaker fails to trip when the test button is pressed, have it checked by a qualified electrician.
Testing your portable GFCI
Portable GFCIs, the plug-in type found in outdoor power equipment, should be tested before every use. Simply press the reset button.
Remember – GFCIs are a “back-up” safety device
Consumers should consider the GFCI as a back-up safety device, not a replacement for common sense and prudent behavior whenever using electrical products. Wherever water and electricity are present, consumer need heightened awareness and should follow the safety instructions that came with the appliance.