Electrical safety is something which is often not taught adequately to children. As more and more of the tools in our lives are powered by electrical energy, it only becomes more and more important that you teach your family how to be safe.
Cords and Cables
Frayed electrical cords are one of the most common causes of electric shock. Extension cords are ubiquitous, and many do not treat them as well as they should. Check the lifespan of your cord, and monitor it for wear and tear. If you are seeing exposed wiring, tears in the material, or it is behaving unreliably you will absolutely need to replace it. When using the out of doors, try to use an extension cord specifically rated and designed for that use. Also, when laying out an extension cord, be mindful of your surroundings, and lay it out gently rather than dragging it into position, potentially stressing it on sharp corners. Never lay it across wet or damp ground, as a small fault in the insulation could lead to a deadly mishap.
Similarly, we also use a variety of other cords for charging, connecting, and accessing our various electronic devices. Phone chargers are notorious for beginning to fray from normal use, and while it can be tempting to continue using a frayed charger as long as your device is charging, this isn’t a great idea. While the risk is small, there is a definite fire risk from frayed chargers. Often, when news stories break about phones catching fire, the charger is what is implicated as the cause. So, if you see a cell phone charger starting to fray, it’s probably best to buy a new one at your first opportunity.
Another thing to pay attention to is your laptop charger. Similar to cell phones, charging malfunctions along with battery defects are frequently the causes of fire. Not only should you watch for fraying and mechanical damage, but you should also pay attention to the “brick” in the middle of the charging cord. This is the device which converts the AC power from the outlet to DC, and also helps to ensure that they correct amount of power is being relayed to the device. In normal use, this can generate a noticeable amount of heat. However, if it begins to malfunction or break down, this amount of heat can grow. As long as the brick can be handled comfortably by hand it should be safe, but if it begins to burn your skin, scorch the surrounding area, or give off an unpleasant smell, it is absolutely time to replace it. This is something that often goes unnoticed because people often do not even handle that part of the charger. They plug one end into their computer, one end into the wall, and that’s the only time they touch it. From time to time, make sure to do checks on the laptop chargers in your home to ensure that they are safe.
The battery is potentially the most dangerous component of many modern electrical devices. Modern batteries are technological marvels, storing incredible amounts of energy in a small space, and rarely causing problems. However, when they do fail, it can be spectacular. Recently, Samsung suffered an embarrassing episode where they had to recall and replace millions of one of their flagship devices, an event which made news headlines and even crossed into pop culture. Outside of extreme scenarios like this however, batteries bought from reputable vendors and used in for their intended purpose are incredibly unlikely to have problems. Instead, batteries are most likely to be dangerous when they are subjected to physical trauma. If a battery is punctured or crushed, the massive amounts of energy inside can be discharged rather quickly and violently. Battery fires can most easily be prevented by ensuring you are using a battery from a reputable vendor, and protecting batteries from being subjected to physical stress. If a battery does ignite, treat it as you would any other major fire. Attempt (if safe) to move it to a less combustible location, prepare equipment to douse the blaze, and be ready to call your local fire department. Additionally, keep an eye on the device after the fire has been extinguished. Many modern batteries have different cells, and in some cases have reignited hours or even days after they were thought to be extinguished.
In general, modern electrical devices are very safe. Most people will never experience a laptop or phone catching on fire, or be electrocuted by a broken extension cord. However, when these events do happen, they often could have been prevented if the individuals involved had been educated about proper safety with electrical devices. Learning electrical device safety and teaching it to your family can ensure that you and your loved ones know how to avoid and deal with dangerous situations which may occur.