Experiencing an electrical fire in your home or business is a frightening event that can put your loved ones and property at risk. Knowing what to do in the event of an electrical fire can help you protect your family and reduce the damage to your home.
Unfortunately, many people tend to panic when they see flames erupt from a wall outlet or appliance, and this cloudy thinking can lead to devastating consequences if you attempt to deal with the situation incorrectly. Staying safe in the event of any type of fire is essential. Let’s take a deeper look at the causes of electrical fires and how to prevent and deal with them if they occur.
Common Causes of Electrical Fires
Residential electrical fires account for nearly 51,000 fires each year, with an estimated $1.3 billion dollars in damage to property. What causes electrical fires? Here are some of the most common causes of these fast-burning disasters that can quickly overtake your home and property.
Old or Outdated Electrical Outlets
Most electrical fires can be attributed to old, outdated, or faulty outlets that are not correctly grounded. As they age, electrical wiring present in the walls wears down, and these connections loosen over time. If they become disconnected or break, sparks that result can quickly create a fire at the outlet behind the wall, using materials in the wall as fuel as flames quickly get hotter.
Old or worn-out appliances can also contribute to an electrical fire. Not only do they draw additional power, but damaged and frayed cords create an additional risk for a fire. Replace that blender or toaster from time to time, and you’ll have peace of mind that you are taking a small step toward preventing fires in your home.
Many homeowners don’t think about the condition of their home’s electrical wiring until there is an issue. If your home is over 20 years old, there is a good chance that it does not have the capacity to handle increasing pressure on its electrical system. Appliances such as computers, televisions, and HVAC systems can all pull enormous amounts of power, putting additional strain on your wiring.
Older wiring tends to heat up quickly, putting you at risk for overload that eventually causes sparking. Look for the following signs that your wiring is tapped out:
- Overloaded circuit breakers
- Flickering lights and/or power outages
- Appliances that feel hot to the touch
- Shocks or sparks coming from appliances or walls
- Burning smells within your home
If any of these conditions are present, you may be at risk for a fire. Talk to a qualified electrician about the next steps for updating your home and preventing an electrical fire.
Lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs are another reason for electrical fires. Using bulbs with high wattage can overtax appliances, causing them to short out. Leaving cloth or paper close to lamps and light fixtures can also be a dangerous issue. Always make sure that the area around your light fixtures and lamps is clear and free from debris, and check to make sure bulbs are appropriately sized to fit the fixture you are lighting.
Space heaters are a common cause of electrical fires. Leaving them on for extended periods of time is very dangerous, particularly if you are sleeping or leave the heater otherwise unattended. Do not place portable heaters next to cloth or furniture that may catch on fire, and unplug them when not in use to prevent them from drawing power from your outlets.
What to Do in the Event of a Fire
Even with every precaution taken, you can still experience an electrical fire in your home. If you do have a fire break out, take quick action to prevent injury and additional damage to your home if possible.
Unplug Nearby Appliances
If you are able to do so without risking harm, unplug nearby appliances to prevent excess heat from reaching them. Never attempt to unplug the appliance that is on fire; to do so could cause an injury to you and additional damage to your home.
Use a Fire Extinguisher, Never Water
If you have a chemical fire extinguisher, you can use it to quickly extinguish flames. It is essential to avoid using water in the event of an electrical fire; attempting to do so could result in electrocution for you or your loved ones. Baking soda is also a quick alternative for dousing small fires such as those found in microwaves and toasters. Still, you should consider putting a working fire extinguisher in areas of the home where you see the potential for fires, such as laundry rooms, garages, and kitchens.
Call the Fire Department if Necessary
If you can’t safely extinguish the fire, or if flames have already spread to other areas of your home, call the fire department immediately. Evacuate your home and find a safe place to shelter while you wait for help to arrive. Do not attempt to enter your property again until emergency services tell you it is safe to do so.
Call an Electrician as Part of Your Restoration Plan
Electrical fire restoration experts know how to safely and securely clean up your home so that it is safe for you to return. Calling an electrician should also be at the top of your list to determine the cause of your electrical problem, as well as to provide helpful tips and tricks for making sure a fire like this does not reoccur. An electrician who specializes in this type of damage restoration can help to assess the damage and make a plan for replacing old wiring, updating outlets, and adhering to best practices when it comes to using lighting and appliances in your home.
Preventing Future Fires
Preventing an electrical fire is as simple as taking a few extra precautions in and around your home. There are a few tips to follow for a safer, more secure property.
For one, don’t attempt to replace fuses or work on fuse boxes by yourself. Don’t overload electrical outlets, and be sure to replace damaged cords, plugs, and outlets if necessary. It’s also important to have an electrician assess your wall sockets, switches, and wiring and to ensure that you aren’t using any fixtures that exceed the allowed wattage.
Let Us Help You Prepare!
At Crowe Electric, we offer a number of professional electrical services that can meet your needs. Proudly serving the Marshfield area since 2018, our qualified electricians can help with everything from electrical system assessment, repair, and replacement to restoration after an electrical outage or fire event.
We also offer additional services that include on-call emergency service and repair, as well as protective and preventative services to reduce the risk of injury or damage to your home. With a five-year warranty offered on all our services, you can feel confident that our work will stand the test of time. Call today for your electrical inspection and gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are doing what you can to protect your home and family.