March/April 2022 Issue
Electricity powers everyday items from toothbrushes to cars. But as we flip a switch or push a button, it can be easy to forget that electricity can also cause shocks, electrocution, and fires.
“People just take electricity for granted,” says Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). “But electricity is uniquely unforgiving. You can’t smell it or taste it. And if you tangle with it, it’s usually not a good outcome for you.”
Electrical malfunctions caused an estimated 24,000 residential building fires, 310 deaths, 850 injuries, and $871 million in property loss each year in the United States from 2014 to 2016, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
“Some of the most frequent causes of electrical shocks or fires in the home are easily preventable,” says Matthew Preble, a home expert with AAA. Here’s what you need to know to keep your home and your loved ones safe.
1. Install and test safety devices.
Properly operating smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are essential.
Test your home’s smoke detectors frequently—the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends doing this once per month—and be vigilant about replacing the batteries, Preble says.
Look for a fire extinguisher with a class C or ABC rating, which can handle an electrical fire, Preble recommends. Make sure the extinguisher is in an easy-to-reach location, and check it every two years to ensure it works, he says. To do so, check that the pressure gauge is in the operable position, and inspect the canister and hose for any signs of damage.