Electrical fires are one of the most common causes of damage and death in the home, and most of these fires can be easily avoided with a few simple checks, and knowing what to look out for. If you familiarise yourself with the basics of electric power and domestic wiring, you can avoid the causes of almost all electrical fires in your home. It will save your property, and maybe even your life.
Statistics show that December is the most dangerous month in terms of electrical fires. The weather is cold and days are short, so more heating and lighting appliances are used around the home. More people are indoors, so more rooms are in use, which can increase the risk of appliances that are badly connected or improperly used causing a fire.
Most electrical fires are not spontaneous; clues are there that something is wrong, you just need to know what to look out for. Plugs and sockets that feel hot to the touch, unless the manufacturer advises that this is normal, such as mobile phone chargers, are dangerous and need to be checked.
Frayed wiring where the lead enters the plug, or exposed wires are both dangerous, and the plug should be re-wired immediately. Either of these two problems can cause the earth connection to come loose, leaving the plug ‘live’ to the touch, and potentially fatal.
Plugging several appliances into one socket can cause overload, which can lead to a short circuit, and a fire. Never plug a second appliance into a socket that is connected to a high-use appliance such as a kettle or a TV.
Use The Right Fuse
Fuses are designed to break an electrical circuit if a fault occurs, using a fuse that is too high for an appliance can mean that the circuit can remain connected even when it is overloaded, and a potential fire hazard. The rule for fuses is –
- 3-amp fuse – appliances up to 700 watts
- 5-amp fuse – appliances between700 and 1,000 watts
- 13-amp fuse – appliances over 1,000 watts
Never run cables over long distances across floors, they can be a trip hazard. Never run them under rugs, carpets or mats, they can fray or snap unnoticed.
Running a lamp or light fitting with a bulb of a higher wattage than that for which the fitting was designed will apparently work perfectly well. What you will be unaware of is the gradual degrading of the internal wiring of the appliance, because it is not visible, and does not prevent the effective working of the light. Eventually, the fitting can overheat, short-circuit, or blow a fuse, all of which are potential fire hazards. If you are in any doubt about the strength of bulb to use in any of the lights in your home, get advice from an electrician.
Action In Case Of Fire
Following these simple rules will rule out the most common causes of electrical fires. If an appliance does catch fire, try to disconnect the power source, or the mains power if this can be done safely. If the appliance gives off smoke, leave the house immediately – far more people die from inhaling toxic fumes than are killed by the fire.
Prevention is always better than cure, so check all your appliances regularly and have them repaired or replaced if they show any of the danger signs listed. If you are unsure of the safety of any electrical items in your home, get professional advice. A visit from a qualified electrician will give you peace of mind, and what ever it costs, it will always be cheaper than loosing your home – or your life.