Home fire safety in a plugged-in world


Technology is a part of our lives, and we are plugged in.  Although the wireless world is growing, we are still wired more than ever.  With more people charging all their mobile devices, using desktop computers, and running typical household appliances at the same time, the average household can be in danger of an electrical fire.  Don’t risk losing everything you own.  Be aware of some simple home-safety tips to prevent a tragic fire:

Check your appliances and wiring regularly.  Most electrical fires are sparked by old wiring or faulty outlets.  Replace any cords or appliance cables that are worn, torn or damaged.

Be up-to-date on recalls.  Fill out the proper information so that you receive word of recalls on your appliances.

Use all appliances according to specifications.  Be sure to follow all safety procedures, such as providing room for venting/fan, cleaning dust/lint collectors, etc.

Do not overload circuits.

Keep all flammable items away from any heat source.

Use a recessed power outlet to safely hide television cables.  Never run them through walls.

Be familiar with these warning signs of electrical danger:

  • Trouble with blowing fuses, circuit-breakers tripping
  • Dimming or flickering lights
  • A tingling sensation when you touch an electrical appliance
  • Sparks coming from an outlet, plug, or appliance
  • Discolored or warm wall outlets
  • A burning smell or unusual heat from an appliance or plug

What you can do to safeguard your home from electrical fires

  • Make sure that electrical circuit interrupters are correctly installed in your home.  Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is a type of circuit breaker that is required for circuits feeding electrical outlets in bedrooms of homes, according to US electrical safety codes.
  • When running cables through a building, be sure to use special coated plenum cables.  “Plenum” refers to the spaces built into buildings above the ceiling or below the floor, used for air circulation.  Although plenum cables are more expensive, they are coated with fire retardant and are made using special, smoke-resistant plastics.  Using regular cables in plenum spaces creates a dangerous fire hazard.  Fire can spread rapidly through these open spaces because of the high oxygen levels in these spaces.  There are no barriers to prevent a fire from spreading rapidly throughout the building.  Any cables run through these spaces must be plenum rated, even wiring used for data, such as Cat5 wiring.
  • One alternate solution is to use unterminated bulk cable and terminate it yourself.  This is fairly easy, except for Cat5 wiring, which can be a bit tricky. Here’s a Cat5 wiring diagram to clarify the process.
  • If your home is more than ten years old, it’s a good idea to have the wiring inspected.  Safety codes have changed, and your home might not be up to current protocols.
  • Don’t delay if you are having electrical or appliance problems.  Fuses that blow often, switches or outlets that are hot to the touch, or circuit breakers that trip often are warning signs that you should never ignore.
  • Always use the correct size bulbs for lamps, and the right size fuses for your fuse box.
  • Be sure that electrical cords and space heaters are kept away from anything flammable such as rugs, bedding, curtains or clothing.
  • Always use appliances as instructed, and observe any safety restrictions.  Check to see if the appliance is meant to remain in power-on mode, or if it should be turned on and off regularly.
  • It’s a good idea to cover unused electrical outlets with plastic plugs, especially if there are children in the home.
  • Always use three-pronged plugs properly.
  • Extension cords should be used with caution, and only temporarily.  Do not overload outlets with extension cords and multi-plug adapters.
  • Periodically examine cords of appliances and other electronics for signs of wear or damage.  Replace any damaged cords immediately.  Frayed wiring can pose a fire hazard.
  • Be cautious about electricity and water.  Electrical appliances should not be sitting on wet counters or floors.  When using electrical appliances near water, such as in the kitchen or bathroom, pay extra attention.
  • Keep children away from appliances, especially those that get hot such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
  • If you do any wiring, be sure you understand wiring colors and follow all manufacturers’ instructions when fitting a plug.
  • Use the correct and properly-rated cable for each job, such as plenum HDMI, plenum Cat5e, and plenum siamese cable.

More Resources to Protect Your Home from Fire

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