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Stop Charging the Flames: Preventing Electrical Fires

According to Electrical Safety Foundational International, almost 51,000 fires in homes every year result from an electrical problem. These fires kill almost 500 people, injure nearly 14,000, and cause billions of dollars in property damage.

Most people understand the risks of electrical shock to the human body, but not everyone is as aware of the other risks the electrical systems in their homes pose every day. There are many simple and important measures that many people do not take, either because they’re unaware of the dangers or because these actions seem inconvenient to them.

Learn more about steps you can take to prevent electrical fires in your home.

Charging Devices

Hardly anyone would imagine that charging their phone, tablet, or laptop is risky, and yet there have been many instances of house fires caused by this everyday activity. A charging device can become the source of fire in many ways:

  • Devices left plugged into their chargers after they’ve fully charged can overheat.
  • Devices plugged into cheap third-party chargers can overheat because the power being sent into the device isn’t properly regulated.
  • Damaged charging cables, especially those with exposed wire, can allow electrical current to escape.
  • Charging devices that have been covered with something, like a blanket or pillow, can overheat and set fire to the thing covering them.
  • Devices that have been dropped, submerged in water, or damaged in any way that comprises the battery can create a heightened risk of fire.

As part of a home fire safety plan, it’s important to regularly inspect charging cables and charging blocks for any sign of wear or damage and to only replace damaged cables and chargers with genuine or certified ones from the device’s manufacturer.

Unplugging devices after they’ve charged fully can prevent overheating and extend the life of a device, but many people charge things like phones and tablets overnight and may not be awake when the device needs to be unplugged. Investing in smart outlets that automatically shut off the flow of power when a device is fully charged can keep you safe and save you money on electrical bills.

Fighting an Electrical Fire

Electricity can be unpredictable, and sometimes an electrical fire starts despite best efforts to prevent it. Fighting an electrical fire is different than dealing with any other kind of fire, so it’s important to understand how to put out an electrical fire safely.

The first thing to do when fighting an electrical fire is to cut off the flow of electricity. This could mean unplugging the device if it’s safe to do so or flipping the breaker of the connected circuit. Cutting off the flow of power is important because even if you’re able to extinguish the fire by other means, if electricity is still flowing the fire could quickly reignite.

If you’re unable to cut off the flow of power, you can try to smother the fire using baking soda or a fire extinguisher. Electrical fires are Class C fires, so you have to use an extinguisher with the letter C on its label. Most residential extinguishers are ABC extinguishers. Never try to put out an electrical fire using water, as it’s conductive and could cause a deadly electric shock.

By incorporating a few simple practices into your everyday routine, you can help prevent electrical fires in your home before they start.

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