The most common electrical related emergency is the start of an electrical fire. I am going to take this time to explain you how electrical fires start, how you can help to protect yourself, and some of the most common signs that you might be at risk for an electrical fire.
Electrical fires can start for a variety of reasons. One of the common causes of electrical fires is the use of faulty or cheap electronic devices. While in the United States we have many regulations outlining the standards for consumer electrical devices, sometimes things can slip through. Additionally, you will sometimes see cheap knockoffs of other electrical devices. People will commonly buy these for cheap on the internet, not realizing that the 5 dollars they are saving could expose them to considerable electrical damage. The best way to avoid this is to look for items sold by trusted vendors which are certified to be safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US often examines and certifies electrical products to see if they meet a minimum standard of reliability and safety. Buying from trusted vendors and checking for electrical safety certifications can help make sure that you do not use cheap or unsafe electrical appliances. Your electrical system gives you access to an absurd amount of energy. You wouldn’t save money by building a dam up the valley from your house out of cheap materials, so you should also protect yourself from the massive amount of power which is “upstream” of your house in the electrical grid.
Another type of appliance that can be a fire risk is any which is designed to produce heat. Something like a space heater might be working perfectly and built well, but in this case working well is generating heat! If you leave a space heater running without supervision, or leave combustible material nearby, you could have a fire start quite easily. Similarly, some lights reach great temperatures while they are on. Exposure to combustible material can again cause a fire.
This is what most people think of when they think of an electrical fire. Some circuit somewhere is causing something to ignite within their walls. But there are many reasons a fire might start in this system.
One of the most common is faulty outlets or switches. If these are not wired correctly, a wire could come loose, allowing electricity to arc or discharge into the surrounding area. Arcing electricity can easily ignite insulation or other flammable material. This can also depend on local weather conditions. If there is low humidity, the timber from which your house is constructed can more easily ignite. This is one reason you see more fires in periods of low humidity.
Aside from a defect in attaching wires, wires which are old or have been exposed to the elements can fail. Cycles of hot and cold can gradual deform wires, and cause them to break, stopping their connection. This again creates a situation where electricity can easily arc or discharge heat into the surrounding area. While ideally your circuit breaker should detect the discharge and stop the flow of energy, this does not always occur.
If you ever notice that a switch or outlet is getting hot to the touch, or is discoloring, turn off the electricity and contact an electrician. There is a high probability that not only is there a fault in the circuit, but that the fault is causing an immediate and real fire risk. Have this inspected immediately.
Paying attention to your electrical system and ensuring that it is in good condition is the best way to avoid dangerous electrical fires. Making sure that you know when your last electrical inspection was, and ensuring that all of your circuits are working property is a great way to make sure there are not any electrical hazards unnoticed. Aside from professional inspection, know your electrical system, and be on the alert for any signs that things could be wrong. Whether it is flickering lights or a circuit breaker tripping very frequently, there are many signs that something in your electrical circuit could be faulty.
Whenever you see one of these signs, take it seriously. Electrical fires often occur after there were many warning signs which were ignored. For a lot of people, out of sight is out of mind, and it can be easier to simply push the problem out of ones mind and forget about it instead of taking steps to deal with it. Unfortunately, not thinking about a fire doesn’t make the fire go away. If there is a faulty wire slowing heating up the surrounding area, it wont be long before you have smoke coming from your outlets and fire inside your walls. Take your time to make sure that your home and family are safe.