Electricity Safety at Home
- Check electric cords often for damage. Have damaged cords repaired right away. Worn cords can cause shock, short circuit or fire.
- Pull the plastic housing of the electric plug to take it out of the wall socket; never pull on the cord.
- Do not overload electric outlets with too many items plugged in at once.
- Water and electricity do not mix. Do not operate electric appliances such as radios or hair dryers near a bathtub or sink full of water.
- Never stick your fingers, toys or anything except electric plugs into electric outlets.
- Unplug any appliance that emits sparks or that does not work properly.
- Always unplug an appliance before cleaning or repairing it.
- Always unplug the toaster or other appliance when removing a piece of stuck food.
- Remember that a turned-off appliance is still connected to electricity until it is unplugged.
- Limit use of extension cords. Make sure the cord is the appropriate size for use. Some appliances or equipment require heavy-duty cords.
Electricity Safety Outdoors
- Never fly kites near overhead power lines. If your kite becomes caught in the lines, let it go. You could get a bad shock or be electrocuted.
- Go inside during thunderstorms. It is very dangerous to stay outside when there is lightning. If you get caught outside, squat low to the ground allowing only your shoes, which act like insulators, to touch the ground.
- Always wear closed-toe shoes when operating an electric lawnmower or hedge clippers.
- Never use electric appliances outside in the rain or on wet surfaces.
- Stay away from electrical equipment, such as substations, transformer boxes and electric poles.
- Be aware of the location of power lines when using an extension ladder and long-handled tools such as swimming pool nets and tree-trimmers.
As warm weather returns and you head outdoors for gardening and building projects or just to have fun, keep these outdoor electrical safety tips in mind.
Look Up! Overhead Power Lines
Keep your Distance
Electricity can jump, and often does when a potential conductor like a metal ladder comes within a certain proximity. When using ladders (even wooden ones) and other long tools be sure to keep them at least 10 feet away from all overhead power lines, including the line from the power pole to your home. Also, don’t climb trees near electrical wires.
Birds can sit on wires, but you can’t!
Birds don’t get electrocuted when they land on wires because they don’t represent a path to ground. Electricity wants nothing more than to go to ground and will always take the easiest, most direct route. A ladder, pole or even a wet kite string touching or coming near a power line will give electricity a new path to ground. If you are in contact with those things as well, you may become part of the path and could be severely injured or electrocuted.
Kites & balloons
Kites, balloons and model airplanes that contact power lines can cause shock or fire, so keep them away from overhead power lines.
Look Down! Buried Power Lines
In many neighborhoods, NOVEC’s power lines are buried underground. Once the lines are covered with dirt and grass, you can’t tell exactly where they are located. To be sure that you don’t damage an underground line and potentially harm yourself, your family or friends, be sure to call Miss Utility at 1-800-552-7001 at least 48 hours before doing any digging in your yard. This free service ensures that all underground power lines in your yard are clearly marked so you can stay away from them when digging.
Safety Tips During Outages
Remember these vital instructions to avoid dangerous situations during outages:
- Treat every power line as if it were a “live” wire and dangerous.
- Stay away from downed wires or trees lying on wires.
- Notify BC Hydro immediately should you observe a downed wire. If BC Hydro phone lines are busy, contact your local fire or rescue department.
- Take necessary precautions to keep others away from the area until qualified personnel arrive on the scene.
- If a power line falls on a vehicle, stay away and avoid making contact. Report the incident to BC Hydro or the police immediately. If someone is inside the car, have the person stay there until professional help arrives.
A particular word of caution is issued to home owners who have purchased portable generators. Proper installation by an electrician is required. They should be installed at a site with proper ventilation, never inside a building or garage. Improper installation not only jeopardizes your home, it also endangers line technicians who work to restore power to your home. If the generator is not properly installed, the electricity it creates will flow back onto the power lines. This creates a life-threatening condition because the line technicians believe the line is de-energized.
Learn how to identify the electrical safety hazards you can’t see before problems arise.
I often wonder what they would have thought of microwaves, entertainment centers, dishwashers and the armies of other gadgets we take for granted on a daily basis. But your home’s electrical system may have a few things going on that might shock you too. Enlighten yourself with these tips that can help you be a more aware homeowner and may alert you to dangerous electrical problems that need to be fixed by a licensed residential electrician.
1. Throw your home a birthday party
For electrical safety reasons, it’s good to know how old your home is and to celebrate its birthday with an electrical safety inspection. Older homes weren’t built to handle the electrical load our contemporary lives carry. Knowing whether your home’s electrical system has been updated to safely handle all the electrical current your family uses is imperative.
2. Know your electric panel
Even as recently as the 1990s, faulty electrical panels were being installed in many new homes. Certain brands, including Federal Pacific, ITE Pushmatic, Zinsco and GTE/Sylvania, are no longer manufactured and pose electrical hazards that could lead to a fire. Your electric panel should never feel hot to the touch.
A hot electric panel points to a big problem. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)
3. Understand the breakers
These guys are your friends, even though you may find their interference irritating when they trip. They’re trying to tell you something, and it’s usually that you have too many appliances or gadgets connected to the same circuit. Reconfigure your appliances, and if the breakers keep tripping, get help from an electrician.
4. Make friends with your fire extinguisher
The only safe way to extinguish an electrical fire is with a fire-retardant chemical fire extinguisher. Never use water; it conducts electricity. Keep fire extinguishers on each level of your home, and know how to use them and when to replace them.
Having a fire extinguisher isn’t enough. Learn how to use it. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)
5. Feel your outlets
Place your hand on the outlets in your home. Warm or hot outlets point to trouble.
A warm outlet could mean one of several dangerous situations is brewing: an electrical load on this circuit is too high, wiring is melting, wiring isn’t up to code or is loose. Also, note if the outlets don’t hold plugs, or if the outlet itself seems loose on the wall.
Replace any two-pronged outlets with newer, grounded three-pronged outlets. Any outlet near water should be switched to code-correct GFCI outlets. Call an electrician to handle these requests.
6. Keep an eye on the lights
Flickering lights could mean you need to repair or replace your electrical panel, or you have too many appliances plugged into one circuit. Don’t ignore this issue.
7. Ground older appliances
Older appliances could have grounding issues that might put you at risk for a shock. Ensure all of your appliances have three-pronged plugs that can properly connect to a grounded outlet. Any kitchen appliances with just two-pronged plugs should be replaced. If the outlets aren’t grounded, they should be replaced, and a new circuit should be installed.
Electrical work is inherently dangerous. Professional electricians receive years of training and on-the-job experience before the state grants them a license. Use discretion when attempting your own electrical work. To make sure all the electrical systems in your home are safe, up to code and working as they should, hire a trusted electrician to handle the job.
On any given day, it’s likely that most people use several different electrical appliances. With electric appliances being so common in modern homes, it’s easy to forget that there are very real risks and hazards associated with their use. Take the time to brush up on the principles of safe operation – and make sure that everyone in your home is aware of them – in order prevent unnecessary exposure to hazards and safety risks.
Electrical Safety Tips Anyone Can Follow
Being safe when using electrical appliances, extension cords, light bulbs and other equipment is easy, and safety tips should be included in household rules, homeschool fire safety and daily behavior expectations for all members of the family. It only takes one mistake to spark an electrical fire, but simple prevention measures can be effective solutions.
Appliances are an integral part of every household, from a simple electric clock to the microwave oven. These safety tips can help keep all appliances operating safely:
- According to Atlantic Training, it’s essential to ensure that any appliances you purchase are approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or another reputable consumer laboratory.
- Unplug unused appliances and stow cords safely out of reach of pets, young children or hazardous situations.
Appliances that generate heat, such as clocks, televisions and computer monitors, should be given several inches of clearance all around for good air circulation and cooling. Do not drape clothes, toys or other items over warm appliances.
- Always follow appliance instructions carefully, and do not attempt amateur repairs or upgrades.
- Keep all electrical appliances away from water such as sinks, bathtubs, pools or overhead vents that may drip.
- Do not operate any electrical appliance with wet hands or while standing in water.
- Keep clothes, curtains, toys and other potentially combustible materials at away from radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other heat sources.
Every electrical appliance has a cord, and many homes use extension cords to increase the range of electrical outlets. These safety tips can help keep cords in good condition for safe operation:
- Check cords regularly for frays, cracks or kinks, including power tool cords, holiday lights and extension cords. The Canadian Center for Occupational Safety suggests doing this before each use.
Cords are not jump ropes, clothes lines or leashes, and should never be used for anything other than their intended purpose.
- Cords should be firmly plugged into outlets – if the cord is loose and can pull out easily, choose a different, more snug outlet.
- Do not staple or nail cords in position at any time; if the cord does not remain where desired, use tape or twist ties to secure it.
- Cords should not be placed beneath rugs where they can become a trip hazard or where frays will not be noticeable. Furthermore, covering a cord will prevent it from keeping as cool as possible.
- Do not make modifications to a cord’s plug at any time – do not clip off the third prong or attempt to file down a wider prong to fit in a different outlet.
- Extension cords are a temporary solution only, and their use should be minimized whenever possible.
- Use the proper weight and length of extension cord for the appropriate task, and be sure the cord is rated for indoor or outdoor use, whichever is required.
- When unplugging a cord, pull on the cord at the outlet rather than tug on the cord itself.
Every cord has to plug into an appropriate electrical outlet, but these tempting niches are inviting to unwelcome objects that can cause shorts and fires. Use these electrical safety tips at home to keep outlets safe:
- Block unused outlets by changing to a solid cover plate or using childproof caps per Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations.
- Do not overload outlets with multiple adaptors or power strips; relocate cords instead.
- Never put any object other than the appropriate size plug into an outlet.
- Install ground fault circuit interrupter outlets in potentially hazardous areas such as near pools, crawl spaces, kitchens, bathrooms and unfinished basements.
- Keep all outlets properly covered with secure plates that cover all wiring.
Light bulbs are the single most common electrical fixture in homes, and proper light bulb safety can keep them from becoming a common electrical hazard.
Use bulbs that have the correct wattage requirements for each fixture. Using a higher wattage bulb can cause the fixture to overheat.
- Consider switching to more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs that provide the same level of light at a lower wattage level.
- According to the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperative, if a CFL bulb breaks, you should open a window and have all people and pets leave the room for at least 15 minutes.
- Always screw bulbs in tightly; a loose bulb can cause sparks or shorts.
- Be sure to unplug or turn off a fixture completely before changing light bulbs.
It is important to also practice electrical safety when outside, since many electrical hazards can be found near homes and not just inside their walls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a number of recommendations for outdoor electricity safety.
Keep trees pruned and away from power lines overhead as well as where the power lines approach the house.
- Do not fly kites, model aircraft or balloons near power lines.
- When using a ladder, carefully inspect the surrounding area to be sure it is free from power lines.
- Do not swim or play in water during an electrical storm, even if it is not raining.
- Always assume that contact with a power line can be deadly.
- Do not approach a downed power line to see if it is live – it may give no signs that can be easily observed, but it is just as deadly. Contact the authorities immediately about downed lines.
Electrical Fire Safety Tips
When an electrical short or spark does happen, it is vital to understand what to do to prevent or put out an electrical fire to keep the damage and devastation from spreading. You should, of course, call 911 or other appropriate emergency services immediately in case of electrical injury or fire. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a number of tips to for preventing electrical fires.
Do not allow children to play in proximity to small or large electric appliances.
- Replace any tools that put off even mild electric shocks.
- Replace any light switches that have a tendency to flicker.
- Replace any light switches that are hot to the touch.
- Avoid overloading extension cords, sockets and plugs.
- Do not every force a three-prong plug into a two-receptacle socket.
- Know where fuse boxes and circuit breakers are located as well as how to properly operate them.
- Never attempt electrical repairs or rewiring without proper certification and experience.
- Do not put water on an electrical fire; use a dry fire extinguisher or baking soda instead.
Staying Safe at Home
Even though electricity is commonplace, there is still quite a bit of danger associated with improper use. Carefully observe all safety measures when using electricity to keep yourself – and your family – safe.
Proper wiring of a home.
Whether you’re building a new home or planning a renovation, proper wiring is an essential. If done correctly, proper wiring can save money, time and frustration.