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Electrical Fire Hazards

Americans have become accustomed to the availability of electricity and the conveniences it makes possible. Hazardous situations involving electricity are often overlooked or not even considered. By following some simple safety tips and guidelines we can make our homes and businesses in Northwood safer places to work and live.

When the weather gets warmer the demand for electricity increases, raising the risk of fire in homes and businesses with damaged or older wiring systems. Fans, air conditioning units, and attic fans are some of the warm weather appliances that can increase the strain on a home or businesses electrical wiring and resulting in a potentially fire situation.

Cold weather results in the increased use of heating systems, space heaters, decorative holiday lighting, and the use of electrical appliances in cooking holiday meals.

What can the citizens of Northwood do to make their homes and places of business safer places?

·         Have electrical inspections conducted for homes 40 years and older.

·         Conduct electrical inspections on homes over 10 years old that have had major renovations or new appliances added.

·         Have your home checked for aluminum wiring systems, and if they are found in your home or business learn about the potential hazards.

·         Considering having arc fault circuit interrupters installed as replacements for your regular circuit breakers, particularly if your home is over 40 years old.

·         Be aware of common signs of electrical problems, to include breakers and/or fuses that are often blown and lights dimming. If these problems occur - call an electrician!

·         Cover unused outlets with safety plugs.

·         Limit the use of extension cords:

·         Particularly when used to power major appliances such as air conditioner units.

o    Extension cords are a temporary, not permanent, wiring solution.

o    Use extension cords rated for the load they will be carrying to prevent overheating.

o    Regularly check cords for damage and never repair by splicing.

o    Never place anything on top of an extension cord, to include rugs.

o    Avoid using "octopus plugs" which allow many cords to be plugged into a single receptacle.

·         Light bulbs should be of the proper wattage for the fixtures in which they are placed.

·         If you receive a shock from a power tool, immediately turn it off and have it checked by a professional for an electrical fault.

·         Electrical Panel Safety:

o    Fuses and breakers should always be in an enclosed fuse box. Interior wiring should never be visible and the panel door should always be closed and latched.

o    Never place items that are combustible around an electrical panel.

o    If you hear buzzing or cracking or smell burning plastic around or inside the electrical panel, or notice burn marks immediately have the panel inspected by qualified electrician.

o    Always have the proper size spare fuses available for the circuits they protect. Over fusing is a preventable fire hazard, causing circuits to overheat when they are forced to carry more current than intended.

o    Use S-type fuses when screw-type fuses need to be replaced.

o    If fuses blow or circuit breakers trip frequently, it may be an indication that the circuits are overloaded. Have a qualified electrician inspect the circuit and make the appropriate repairs.

·         When there is lightning nearby:

o    Avoid using the telephone except for emergencies.

o    Stay away from electrical appliances and metal objects such as metal windows and doors.

o    Seek shelter immediately in an enclosed building or vehicle.

o    If you cannot find shelter, find a low lying area, crouch down with feet together and hands on your knees until the storm is over.

o    Avoid isolated trees, high ground, bodies of water or large open areas.

o    If someone is injured, administer first aid, if you are qualified to do so, and call for emergency help. You cannot be shocked by someone who has been hit by lightning.

o    Ensure that your home has proper lightning protection. A direct path needs to be provided for lightning to travel to ground.

It is important for homeowners to understand the severity of an electrical wiring fire, as it often begins behind a wall, in a basement or in the attic where the fire can spread throughout the home before setting off the smoke alarm or becoming evident to occupants. This reduces the amount of time available to escape a burning building.

Other types of electrical fires may be more visible but can be just as deadly.

Home and business owners should come to regard electrical safety as an essential part of routine maintenance.

Always remember – if an emergency should occur dial 9-1-1 as soon as you have safely removed yourself from the situation.