You probably take electricity for granted and rarely think of your wiring and outlets as dangerous. Yet home electrical systems cause about 51,000 fires each year, resulting in 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage. Electrical outlets are to blame for about one in 10 of these fires.
Why Do Outlets Cause Fires?
Outlets transfer electricity from the wiring behind the wall to your appliances and electronics. The key to preventing electrical outlet fires is to understand the cause, which may include:
- Old outlets and wiring: These components wear out over time. Wear and tear aside, the electrical systems in older homes may be insufficient to support a modern, high-tech lifestyle.
- Faulty wiring: The once tightly wound wiring behind an outlet may come loose and begin arcing, resulting in excessive heat that can spark a fire.
- Overloaded outlets: Attempting to draw too much energy through an outlet can cause overheating. If you don’t have enough outlets for your needs, an experienced electrician can install more.
- Ungrounded outlets: Modern three-prong outlets, also known as grounding receptacles, have a separate channel that sends excess energy into the ground. Ungrounded two-prong outlets and improperly wired three-prong outlets are safety hazards.
Tips to Prevent Electrical Outlet Fires
Follow these preventative measures to keep your home and family safe from electrical outlet fires:
- Inspect power cables regularly. Never plug in a device with a frayed or damaged cord.
- Unplug devices by pulling on the power plug, not the cord.
- Don’t daisy-chain extension cords and power strips.
- Avoid running cables under rugs and furniture, which could cause overheating.
- Never remove the third prong to fit a two-prong outlet.
- Replace your home’s two-prong outlets with modern three-prong versions.
- Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) anywhere an outlet is likely to come in contact with water, including near the kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the garage, and outside.
How to Extinguish an Electrical Fire
When an outlet catches fire, the goal is to put out the blaze as quickly as possible. If the fire is already uncontrollable when you come across it, evacuate and call 911. Otherwise, take these steps to extinguish an electrical fire:
- Shut off the power at the breaker box.
- Do not throw water on an electrical fire.
- Instead, douse the blaze with an extinguisher designed to put out Class C electrical fires, such as a multipurpose ABC extinguisher.
- If a fire extinguisher is not available, smother the flames with baking soda or cover the fire with a thick, heavy blanket and stomp it out.
Once the fire is extinguished and you determine that everyone is safe, shift your focus to home restoration. The skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced team at DKI can help. We provide comprehensive residential and commercial fire damage restoration services, including smoke and soot removal, contents restoration, and building reconstruction. Contact us today at 844.345.2255 to begin cleaning up the smoke and fire damage.