Although electricity is a necessary and useful tool in our daily lives, it can also be extremely dangerous. In fact, data show that approx 400 people get electric shocks in their homes every year, with about half of those electric shocks leading to death.
Although the main causes of electric shock vary, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the most common occur due to carelessness or simply underestimation of the potential danger of this everyday power source. For example, disturbance of sockets and cables of children or pets, exposure of power tools to water, failure to turn off a power switch during electrical workand also failure to read and follow the instructions of a device are all marked among the most common causes of electrical accidents in the home.
For this reason, “electrical safety precautions should not be taken for granted”;, says Cory Eickholt, a Loss Control Manager for Central insurance.
Below we review the five electrical safety tips that every homeowner should know and follow to ensure your and your family’s and home’s safety.
5 electrical safety rules to follow
1. Maintenance is the key
Maintaining the electrical systems in your home should be considered as part of the general household maintenance. Doing so will help prevent electrical fires or surges that can not only put you and your family in danger, but can cause permanent damage to your property.
To ensure that your electrical systems work properly, Eickholt recommends:
- Keep electrical panels free from too much dust and dirt.
- Do not store objects within three feet of electrical panels.
- Keep the panels dry and free from potential water sources.
- Wipe panels with lint-free cloths and solvents if necessary.
- Minimizes heat build-up in rooms with electrical panels.
- Inspect panels for signs of corrosion, loose wires / switches and signs of excess heat.
These are not the only useful measures you can take to prevent electrical problems, according to Eickholt.
“Companies with major electrical systems – including a standard electrical preventive maintenance program (EPM) – should schedule inspections of electrical systems that include testing and maintenance of critical electrical components and their support systems,” he adds.
2. Always replace damaged cables
When it comes to electricity, Eickholt explains how important it is that you use perfectly intact tools and equipment, as a small dent or crack in a cable can have detrimental effects on your safety and property.
Each electrical cord contains a live cable that is properly insulated from the cord. When that cord is worn or damaged, the live cord may be exposed. Exposed wires are direct channels to the electricity and can be incredibly harmful to the touch. They can also lead to electrical fires when left unattended.
Avoid these hazards by regularly inspecting every piece of electrical material in your home. If you notice any abrasion or bending that appears to be misplaced, always be careful and replace the material. It is also important not to try to repair damaged wires on your own. PVC tape, for example, is not a permanent solution to an electrical problem. Instead, always call a professional if you feel there is a dangerous line that needs repairing.
3. Secure your home for children and pets
The National Fire Protection Association reports that almost 2,400 children suffers severe shocks and burns every year as a result of objects being inserted into electrical outlets. In addition, experts in pet care have found it chewing on live electrical wires is the single most common type of electrical damage to pets. Although these figures are frightening, there are easy ways to protect children and pets from electrical hazards.
Start by identifying the types of outlets you have in your home, and then decide if you should take temporary or permanent measures to make your outlets safe. Permanent measures may include replacing regular stores with such designed to prevent electrical damage, such as AFRC (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) or GFIC (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) sockets. AFRC sockets are designed to prevent dangerous arcs in your electricity, where the GFIC sockets monitor the electrical current moving through a circuit and turn off the power when needed.
More temporary solutions to electrical outlet hazards include the use of plastic outlet covers, outlet boxes or self-closing outlet lids, all of which can be used to prevent children from accessing the hazardous electricity behind panels.
Keep in mind that sockets are not the only electrical items that need attention to protect your family. Extension cords, sockets, and even the plugs themselves should all be treated as part of this safety practice. Simple fixes such as taping down cables, installing a power strip and keeping most electrical items plugged out of the reach of children and pets can go a long way in keeping everyone safe.
4. Avoid overloading outlets
One of the most common and dangerous mistakes homeowners make when it comes to electricity is overload. Although the average socket is designed to handle 15 to 20 amperes of power, many people find that they connect multiple high-power items to the same socket without ever considering its maximum capacity.
In fact, the invention of surge protectors and extension cords has made it easier than ever for homeowners to dismiss the best practices of outlets and simply overload their outlets for convenience. Although common, this measure is in itself considered to be the most common cause of electrical fires.
It is especially important to avoid connecting high voltage items to the same outlet. Do a review of your home to find out which items are connected to each electrical outlet, then do some research to determine if the combined power level of these items exceeds the outlet limit. If so, you should rearrange some of your items, or at least disconnect items from that outlet when not in use to prevent excessive power in one place.
5. Do not be afraid to call in reinforcements
Homeowners often choose to take on home improvement projects on their own, but when it comes to electrical work, it is always safest to hire a professional. Electricians are extensively trained in the correct methods for dealing with the intricacies of electrical work and can provide important training on all the specific factors in your home that can make your electrical situation unique.
“It is imperative to remember that … if you are unfamiliar with or comfortable with electrical systems, have a qualified electrician assist you with any inspections, maintenance or electrical repair needs,” Eickholt emphasizes.
Electrical safety and your homeowners’ insurance
According to National Fire Protection Association, $ 1.4 billion a year in direct property damage is caused by electrical problems. Recovery from such a catastrophe, even if it is frightening, is much more manageable for those who are covered by a reputable homeowner’s insurance policy.
In the event of an accidental fire, your insurance company can provide the financing and support you need to help cover damages and get your property working again. Keep in mind that the high correlation between poor electrical systems and fire damage has led insurance companies to weigh the age and quality of a home’s wiring when deciding if it can be covered. Older homes with outdated systems such as knobs and pipelines may have more difficulty finding coverage in the standard market due to the increased risk of electric fires.
Stay safe with Central
At Central, we know that your home insurance is the safety net you never want to have to use. Follow these electrical safety tips to protect your home and family from electrical damage and, if the unexpected happens, make sure get in touch with your agent directly. We are always ready to help.
The post was originally published in September 2018 and has since been updated for clarity.