You might be taking a huge risk that you’re not even aware of. In today’s electricity-powered world, we have an excess of cords. This doesn’t just tie back to smartphones and laptops, though. We also have lamps, microwaves, coffee makers, and toasters. Our televisions are constantly plugged in, as are cable boxes and DVR. While all of this electricity may not seem like a big deal so long as your wiring is up to date, you’re not as safe as you think. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2014, electrical fires accounted for nearly 24,000, or 6.3 percent, of all residential fires; 11 percent of the fires where someone died; and 7 percent of the fires where someone was injured.
A lot of electrical fires are attributed to outlets being overloaded. This is a common problem in winter, when we’re using space heaters and other high-energy appliances to keep warm. Homeowners also accidently overload their electrical wiring when they use multiple-outlet extension cords instead of the primary outlet to plug things in. Of course, one of the most common causes of electrical fires, and one that is often overlooked, is frayed cords–particularly those of lamps and appliances. You can help prevent an electrical fire in your home–and a big insurance headache–when you proactively check electrical appliances and lamp wiring on a routine basis.
What should you look for when you’re inspecting the wires in your home? Here are a few red flags:
- Circuit breakers that trip frequently
- The reoccurrence of blown fuses
- A harsh smell, similar to smoke or burning, that is continuous in a room or near an appliance
- Warm or discolored wall surrounding your outlets
- Flickering or dimming of lights
- A slight tingle as you unplug or plug in an appliance or lamp
If you’re regularly inspecting the wires around your home to make sure they’re not frayed, that’s an excellent start. You can take even more preventive measures to ensure that, in the event of an electrical fire, your family stays safe. Start by testing your smoke alarms monthly. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm every six months, even if the alarm is being regularly tested. Be sure to follow the usage instructions on your appliances; don’t throw the instructions away. They will outline the safest way to use your appliance and state clearly any dangers associated with misuse of a product.
Here are some additional safety tips:
- Replace your damaged, old, or worn-out appliance cords immediately
- Never use appliances with a frayed wire
- Keep children and pets away from electrical cords. If you notice children or pets playing with an electrical wire, remove them from the area immediately and inspect the cord for signs of damage.
It’s true that being so vigilant about the wires and cords around your home can seem like a chore. And replacing your microwave on a Saturday may seem like a pain. But keep in mind that performing these tasks is far less expensive (financially and emotionally) than rebuilding your home.