SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Electrical problems in the home cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year, not to mention roughly a billion dollars in fire property loss. The Safe Electricity program encourages you to observe Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, by learning how to keep your home safe and prevent electrical fires.
Before Paige Koeppel had a close encounter with electricity, she never gave electricity a second thought. She is now a college student with a bright future and is sharing her experience to help educate others.
When Paige was 12 years old, she was drawing a bath and grabbed the metal towel rack to steady herself. Paige's parents found her on the opposite end of the bathroom holding the towel rack. Her father immediately turned off power to the house, and they took Paige to the hospital. Fortunately, Paige was okay. The level of electricity in the house easily could have stopped her heart or caused severe burns. Paige's entire body was sore for days, and she experienced weakness in her arm for around a year.
How did this accident happen? When an electrician opened up the bathroom wall, he found the cause. A screw in the towel rack was in contact with an electrical wire. Over time, the insulation in the wire wore down, and the screw and towel rack were charged with electric energy.
When electricity flows out of the path set for it by wires, it is known as an arc fault. This situation can also cause fires and contributes to approximately 26,000 electrical fires in the United States every year.
Safe Electricity the following advice to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from arc faults and prevent electrical fires:
Check for wiring before nailing anything into the wall. A stud finder with an AC wire detector is a handy and inexpensive tool to check for live wires behind walls.
Install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). If they detect arcing conditions or an abnormal flow of electricity, they shut off power before a fire starts or someone gets shocked.
Consider an electrical inspection. A qualified electrician will be able to assess the safety of your home's electrical system and give you advice for improvements.
Do not use water to extinguish an electrical fire. Use an extinguisher that is approved for use on electrical fires.
Flickering lights and warm, cracked, or sparking outlets all indicate electrical problems.
If circuits trip, fuses blow, or someone gets a shock, your home has an electrical problem. Get an electrical inspection.
Do not overload outlets, use an extension cord as a permanent wiring solution, or use light bulbs that are not rated for the socket.
For more electrical safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org.