It is fire prevention week in Canada! We wanted to share some ways to make sure you are doing everything possible to prevent electrical fires in your home. Fire hazard conditions are created when electricity is stopped from moving freely through the circuits we have laid out for it (the wiring, outlets, cords, etc). This provides a chance for the electricity to arc, ‘jump’, through the air between 2 conductors. Arc faults or flashes can reach temperatures of up to 35000 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme heat can cause burns, overheating, damage to electrical systems and cords and can ultimately start a fire.
Review these fire prevention tips to make sure everyone in your family knows how to prevent an electrical fire.
Prevent Fires by Using Extension Cords Correctly
Electrical cords are handy but they can add to fire hazard conditions in your home if used improperly. Follow these tips to reduce your risks.
Temporary Extension Cord Use
Check the extension cord for wear before each use.
Do not use a cord that is frayed, cracked or otherwise damaged. Make sure the outlet end is clean and free of debris. Make sure plug end is clean, straight and shows no signs of discolouration. Anything that prevents electricity flowing freely through the cord can cause dangerous arcing and overheating.
Make sure the extension cord is CSA approved.
Never run an extension cord under carpets, soft furnishings or other flammable materials
Avoid running an extension cord across an area where people could walk on, drive on or trip over the cord.
Aside from a tripping hazard, these actions could cause damage to the cord. The cord could also be pulled partially out of the wall without anyone noticing, causing electricity to arc at the outlet.
Keep extension cords away from water and heat sources.
Pull on the plug end and not on the cord to prevent it from being damaged when unplugging an extension cord.
Never cut off the third prong on an extension cord.
Make sure the plug ends are plugged in securely and do not wiggle. A loose connection leaves room for electricity to arc.
Prolonged Extension Cord Use
Only use an extension cord as temporary solution.
Call an electrician to install addition outlets or circuits If you do not have enough outlets in the room or need a more conveniently placed outlet.
Use power bars, surge protection bars and multi outlet extenders sparingly. Plug in no more than 1-3 cords to avoid overloading the circuit.
A much better option is to have an electrician install additional outlets where needed and a whole home surge protector. A panel based surge protector will safeguard all of your circuits, appliances and equipment from costly surges.
Prevent Appliances From Becoming Fire Hazards
Follow these guidelines to prevent your appliances from becoming fire hazards.
Make sure all appliances are CSA approved.
Follow the appliance manufacturer’s instructions for set up, operation and cleaning.
Make sure appliances are plugged into outlets and not extension cords. Have an electrician install an outlet closer to your appliance instead.
Some appliances will draw a larger amount of power and may need to be on their own circuit to avoid overloading a circuit. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to see whether the appliance requires a dedicated circuit.
Unplug small appliances when not in use.
Appliances that are used to produce heat such as irons, hair styling tools, kettles and toasters are the most important to unplug.
Disconnect appliances before cleaning them.
Don’t DIY! Call a qualified appliance repairperson for any needed repairs.
Heaters and Fire Prevention
Any equipment that produces heat is an obvious place to look for a fire hazard. Follow these tips before each use.
Make sure the heater is well away from soft furnishings, curtains and other flammable materials.
Make sure the heater is clean and dust free.
Check the heater’s cords for damage.
Heaters require a lot of power. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to find out if your heater requires a dedicated circuit to avoid overloading.
Prevent Fires at Outlets, Switches and Light Fixtures
Outlets, switches and light fixtures are connections between your electrical system and the things we want them to power. Any place you have a connection in an electrical circuit, you have the potential for a fire hazard. Follow these instructions to prevent fire hazards from developing at your outlets, switches and light fixtures.
Make sure outlets and switches are tight and fit snugly against the wall. A wiggly plug or light switch can be a place for electricity to arc and cause a fire.
Make sure outlets and switches are not hot to touch
Do not toggle light switches on and off quickly and continuously. This can cause arcing.
Ensure light bulbs are screwed in properly to ensure there are no gaps where electricity can arc.
Make sure the light bulbs are the correct wattage for each light fixture. Incorrect wattage can lead to overheating and fire hazard.
Keep young children away from outlets. Teach them not to put fingers or objects in or near an outlet.
Consider having tamper-proof receptacles installed or keep outlets filled with childproof plug covers when not in use.
Make sure you have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter or GFCI outlets installed in any environment where they could come into contact with water. This includes your kitchen, bathroom, basement and outdoors.
They should be tested monthly to make sure they are working.
Make sure you have Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter or AFCI Breakers installed. These devices will sense an arc in the circuit and trip, stopping the flow of electricity.
Charging Devices Safely
Cell phones, tablets, laptops and mobile gaming devices all need frequent charging. Make sure you are charging them safely to prevent fire hazards and device damage.
Use only CSA and manufacturer approved chargers for your devices.
An incorrect charger may have different output voltage and current ratings than your device needs. This can lead to device damage or overheating causing a fire.
Inspect charging cords and ends for damage before use. Replace any chargers with cracked or frayed cables or burnt charging ends.
Always place your device on a well-ventilated, non-flammable surface while charging to keep them from overheating. Do not charge devices on soft, flammable surfaces such as beds or couches.
Make sure to charge devices in a location away from water and heat sources.
Unplug charging cables when not in use.
The cords will continue to draw power when plugged in, even when not connected to a device. That power can be directed into a soft/flammable surface causing a fire hazard.
Don’t plug chargers into extension cords. Have an electrician Install additional outlets or USB charging outlets in a safe location
Avoid charging your devices overnight. It will not overcharge the battery but it may overheat and cause a fire while everyone is sleeping.
Maintain and Upgrade Your Electrical System for Fire Prevention
Maintaining your home’s electrical system is key to fire prevention. Older homes may not have an electrical system that supports our modern power needs. These older homes may not be up to current electrical standards and electrical connections may have loosened over time. Even newer homes may be in need of an electrical system tune up or upgrade to make sure everything is working how it should.
The following are some of the things you should repair or upgrade for fire prevention and to bring your home up to current Electrical Code standards:
Fire Prevention Repairs
Have an electrician check all the connections in your home at the panel, outlets and switches and light fixtures to make sure the connections are not loose.
Replace or repair aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring connections are a fire hazard risk . Aluminum wiring was used in homes constructed from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s. Please call a qualified electrician for an inspection if you suspect your home of having aluminum wiring. Visit our aluminum wiring pages for more information.
Fire Prevention Upgrades
Increase the number of outlets to avoid overloading circuits or using extension cords or power bars.
Create dedicated circuits for your appliances to eliminate the need to unplug one appliance before you can use another.
Install safety devices such as tamper-proof receptacles, GFCIs and AFCI breakers
Replace expired electrical panels. An electrical panel is only good for 25 years (or the manufacturer’s recommended expiry term). After that, their parts may start to fail which can lead to serious fire hazards and risk of electrocution. To learn more about electrical panels, please visit one of our informative pages.
Exquisite Electric offers free electrical home safety inspections with every service call. Give us a call today!
Fire Hazard Conditions and Signs for Concern
If you notice any of the following, please contact an electrician immediately:
Flickering light bulbs or lights that dim when you use certain appliances.
Light switches or outlets that are hot to the touch.
Outlets that spark when you plug something in.
Outlets with a buzzing, crackling, or hissing sound or a burning smell.
Circuit breakers that trip constantly.
Electrical wires and breakers that feel hot to the touch.
Being Prepared for a Fire
You can do all the fire prevention possible in your home but your family should also be prepared in case a fire should happen. The following 3 tips are important to keep your family safe.
Make sure you recharge your fire extinguishers and have them on every level of your home within easy reach.
Emergency Escape Plan
Have an emergency escape plan that you go over with your entire family frequently. Make sure everyone knows more than one way out of the house and where you will meet once outside.
Smoke and Carbon Monixide Detectors
Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly to make sure they are working properly and are not expired. Detectors expire after 7-10 years so make sure to check the expiry dates on each unit. To find out how to test your smoke detector, please visit our Testing Smoke/CO Instructions page.
Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
New detectors such as the Google Nest Protect Wi-Fi Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm will send alerts to your mobile phone in case of fire or other ‘event’. When paired with a nest thermostat, they will turn off your furnace to stop it drawing in new oxygen to feed the fire. When paired with a home automation system, it will even turn on all the lights to make sure your family can escape safely