Category Archives: Electrical fire hazards

holiday lights

Don’t let your holiday sparkle fizzle

With the holidays fast approaching, homeowners and businesses will be decking the halls; often with strings of lights and lighted decorations. Those lights are glittering and cheerful, but they can also cause hazards if they’re plugged into extension cords!holiday lights

Before you untangle all of those light strings, consider that approximately 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

That’s because extension cords can overheat and cause fires when they’re used improperly. Keep these important tips from the ESFI and Little Sparkie Electric in mind to protect your home and workplace.

  • Don’t plug extension cords into one another.
  • Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the device being used.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  • If used outdoors, cords should be GFCI-protected, either by plugging them into a GFCI-protected receptacle or by having GFCI protection themselves.
  • Do not overload extension cords. A circuit overload SHOULD trip the breaker or blow the fuse, but it isn’t guaranteed. If the breaker or fuse is rated higher than the circuit wiring, the circuit may not open in an overload.
  • Inspect cords for damage before you use them. Check for cracked or frayed sockets, loose Power stripsor bare wires, and loose connections. A break in a hot wire will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow a fuse, and is thus a fire hazard.
  • This should be obvious, but do NOT nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards.
  • Do NOT run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat can’t escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots. Again, this should be obvious, but never cut off the ground pin to force a fit, which could lead to electric shock.
  • Buy only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Do NOT use an extension cord or power strip with heaters or fans, which could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.

Remember that extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. They’re not intended as permanent household wiring, so put them away when the holiday decorations come down!

If you need additional outlets, always have a licensed electrician install them. This isn’t the time to be a DIYer! 

Celebrate Safely this Holiday Season!

This isn’t just the time of year when we eat more than usual, it’s also when we have the most household accidents and fires, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, Inc. (ESFI).

With multiple strings of lights, electrical holiday decorations, candles and lots of cooking, it’s easy to see why. To keep your holidays from going from merry to scary, remember these ESFI Holiday Safety Tips:

1. Keep decorations at least three feet away from heat sources – especially those with an open flame, like fireplaces and candles. And remember to blow out your candles when you go to sleep or even leave the room.
2. When decorating, don’t run cords under rugs or furniture, out of windows, or across walkways and sidewalks.
3. If you have a natural Christmas tree, water it well to keep it fresh and safe. holiday safety for Christmas treesReal trees can dry up and turn into kindling in no time at all. Get rid of the tree after Christmas; dried out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage.
4. Always turn off your decorations when you leave home and when you’re sleeping. Most deadly fires happen while people are asleep.
5. Don’t overload electrical outlets. Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires. Avoid overloading outlets and plug only one high-wattage into each outlet at a time.
6. Be mindful of how you are using electrical outlets. If you’re using extension cords or adapters that add receptacles, consider having a qualified electrician add more outlets to your home. Extension cords are a common cause of home fires.
7. Only use electronics in dry areas. As tempting as it may be, don’t decorate your aquarium with icicle lights!
8. Keep your phones and tablets on your nightstand. We all love falling asleep to the muffled crooning of Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé, but overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.
holiday safety space heater9. Invest in a heater with safety features such as automatic overheat protection, cool touch exterior, a self-regulating ceramic element or a tip-over safety switch that turns it off in the event of it being knocked on its side. Read manufacturer’s instructions and any warning labels before first using it. Do not leave heaters unattended; turn them off before you go to sleep.
10. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
11. Keep batteries stored safely in their packaging and out of reach of anything that might try to eat them, like small children and pets. Eating a battery can be deadly.

Our best wishes for a safe and blessed holiday season,holiday safety
Catherine and John Nazarene

Power strips

Avoid Electrical Fires Before they Start!

Electricity causes more than 40,000 fires every year in the United States, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths. Electrical fires kill more than 750 people and cause more than $1 billion in property damage annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The top electrical safety hazards include electrical fires caused by aging wiring, misuse of surge suppressors, and shocks and electrocutions from  wiring systems and large pieces of equipment.

Extension cord fires outnumber fires beginning with attached or unattached power cords by more than 2-to-1. Employers and employees need to remember that an important aspect of workplace electrical safety is properly using extension cords, power strips, and surge protectors.

Other sources of electrical accidents are faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation, or misused equipment. Follow these guidelines to help keep your workplace safe:

General Electrical Safety Tips

  • Replace or repair loose or frayed cords on all electrical devices.
  • Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • In areas with small children, such as child care centers, electrical outlets should have plastic safety covers and be tamper resistant.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Consider plugging only one high-wattage Power stripsappliance into each receptacle outlet at a time. If the circuit breaker for that receptacle is doing its job, it will trip if the circuit becomes overloaded.
  • If outlets or switches feel warm, shut off the circuit and have them checked by a licensed electrician.
  • Avoid using “cube taps”, power strips, and other devices that allow you to plug multiple appliances into a single receptacle.

Outlet Safety

Receptacles (properly known as “receptacle outlets”) are perhaps the most commonly used and least thought of devices in the workplace.  And now everyone has cell phone and other mobile device chargers to plug into a limited number of outlets.

Here are some tips to keep your workplace’s outlets safe:plug in

  • Check outlets regularly for broken parts, overheating, loose connections, and corrosion. Consider having an electrical inspection performed by a qualified, licensed electrician to determine the integrity of your outlets and your entire electrical system.
  • Check for outlets that won’t hold a plug. Tired receptacles can lead to arcing faults and fires.
  • Hot is not OK. If a receptacle or switch wall plate is discolored or hot to the touch, immediately shut off power to the circuit and have it checked by a licensed electrician.
  • Replace missing, damaged, or broken wall plates.

Power Strips and Surge Suppressors
Power strips allow employees to plug more products into the same outlet, which can be handy, but can also be a safety hazard. Power strips, aka outlet strips, don’t provide more power to a location, just more access to the same limited capacity of the circuit to which it is connected.

  • Surge suppressors do help to protect connected equipment, but are not an absolute guarantee. Many come with dollar-figure guarantees for connected equipment damaged in a surge. Please do yourself a favor and read the fine print!
  • Any circuit likely also still serves a variety of other outlets and fixtures, in addition to the items plugged into the power strip. When using power strips and surge suppressors, keep these safety principles in mind:
  • Don’t overload the circuit. Know the capacity of the circuit and the power requirements of all the electrical items plugged into the power strip and into all the other outlets on the circuit, as well as any light fixtures on the circuit. We have seen power strips literally explode when faulty equipment was plugged into them.
  • A heavy reliance on power strips means that you probably don’t have surge protectorenough receptacles. Have a qualified electrician install additional outlets where needed.
  • Surge suppressors can manage the small surges and spikes sometimes generated by turning equipment on and off. They may even protect against a large surge generated from outside sources like lightning or problems along the power lines to the business. In the event of a large surge or spike, the surge suppressor only protects your equipment one time, and then it will likely need replacing. These devices basically sacrifice themselves to protect connected equipment. Check them regularly for the “happy light,” usually green, which shows that protection is enabled.
  • Consider purchasing surge suppressors with cable and phone jacks to provide the same protection to your phone, fax, computer, TV, and so on.
  • Not all power strips are surge suppressors, and not all surge suppressors can handle the same load and events. There are also surge protective devices that mount to or inside a breaker panel. Ask a licensed electrician for advice to be sure the equipment you buy matches your needs.

Have questions?  Give us a call at 301-606-5181 or send us an e-mail at [email protected].

Follow These Fall Safety Tips!

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), reminds you to keep electrical safety in mind as the cooler fall weather moves many activities back indoors. The following safety tips will help you stay safe during the change of seasons:
  • Safely store warm weather tools like lawn mowers and trimmers. 
  • Check cold weather tools, such as leaf and snow blowers, along with their power cords, for unusual wear and tear. 
  • Repair or replace worn tools or parts right away.
  • Unplug and safely store battery chargers that won’t be in use again until spring.
  • Use only weatherproof electrical devices for outside activities. Protect outdoor electrical devices from moisture.
  • Make sure electrical equipment that has been wet is inspected and reconditioned by a certified repair dealer.
  • Keep dry leaves swept away from outdoor lighting, outlets and power cords. 
  • Make sure electric blankets are in good repair and certified by an independent testing lab such as UL, CSA or ETL. 
  • Power cords should not be frayed, cracked or cut. 
  • Do not tuck your electric blanket under mattresses or children, and do not put anything, such as comforters or bedspreads, on top of the blanket while it is in use. 
  • Never allow pets to sleep on an electric blanket.

More Home Fires Occur in Winter

Home-FireWith winter’s coldest months upon us, we ask that people be aware of electrical fire hazards.

In an average year, heating is the cause of 17 percent of structure fires; however, in winter, especially during the coldest months, heating fires jump to 27 percent of structure fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Recognize Signs of Trouble

Be alert and learn to recognize signs of electrical trouble waiting to happen. Some warning signs that could lead to an electrical fire are:

  • Lights flicker for no apparent reason
  • You wiggle a switch and it feels “floppy” in your hand and/or the lights flicker or go on and off
  • The light switch doesn’t turn the lights on or – even worse – won’t turn them off
  • An unusual smell
  • Discolored receptacles, switches or other electrical devices
  • Sparks or noises (especially like “frying eggs)
  • Frayed wires or loose connections
  • Overloaded outlets, extension cords or surge protectors
  • Circuit breakers trip – and be especially concerned if they won’t reset!

If you see any of these signs of electrical problems, call an electrician immediately. A qualified electrician can identify possible causes, such as short or overloaded circuits, improperly-rated fuses and breakers, and not having ground-fault protection where it’s needed to protect against shock hazards.

Little Sparkie Electric offers safety checks as part of our services, and we see scary things just about every day. We check circuit breakers and wire connections, look for deterioration and corrosion, run tests to help ensure that electrical equipment is functioning correctly, and make recommendations to help ensure safety.

And you should always check to make sure your smoke alarms are working; we also install hard-wired alarms to comply with local electrical codes.

Winter Storms Can Cause Extra Hazards

Winter storms such as those the Eastern Seaboard has experienced in recent years, can cause additional hazards. These include:

  • Alternative heating devices such as space heaters, being used incorrectly.
  • Damaged or downed utility lines.
  • Water damaged appliances and utilities can be electrically charged.
  • Frozen water pipes can burst and cause safety hazards.
  • Leaking gas lines, damaged or leaking gas propane containers, and leaking vehicle gas tanks may explode or ignite.
  • Generators are often used during power outages, but if they’re not properly used and maintained they can be hazardous.

We always advise people to always follow manufacturers’ instructions and guidelines. Always use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside of the home in a well-ventilated location, as carbon monoxide fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.