TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — “Taking a few minutes to walk through your home and checking for problems can save the life of you, a family member or that of a firefighter. It can also help protect your family mementos and furnishings. During our dry season a residential fire sparked from a faulty electrical system or appliance can quickly spread to the surrounding forest,” said Gene Welch, public safety and information officer, Truckee Fire Protection District. “We all know how devastating that can be under extreme conditions. I hope everyone who reads the following article will take a few minutes to go through their home and place of work to identify and correct any electrical hazards they find. The longer a potential hazard has been around, the more likely it is to fail and cause a fire. Don’t gamble with yours and your loved ones’ lives. Disconnect suspect appliances and circuits. Have a qualified professional make any necessary repairs. It is much cheaper to repair or upgrade a system than it is to pay for a funeral. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 280 Americans each year. Many of these fires are caused by incorrectly installed wiring, overloaded circuits and extension cords.”
Winter fires can be prevented. The following electrical fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire-safe home this winter.
• Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
• Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
• Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.
• Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
• Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
• Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
• If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
• Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
• Use safety closures to “child-proof” electrical outlets.
• Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
• Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
— For more information on electrical fire safety, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website, www.usfa.fema.gov