Most of us would agree that life would be more difficult without the use of electricity to heat, cool and light our homes and businesses, and operate our appliances and tools.
Although electrical equipment provides everyday conveniences, it has become the third leading cause of home fires and the second in fire deaths.
Fires from short circuits and faulty wiring kill hundreds of people and injure thousands more annually.
With the danger of electrical fires ever present, taking precautions is fundamental to using electricity wisely.
Plug in only as many appliances as an outlet can support directly. Do not use un-fused, multi-plug adapters or power strips because the electrical circuit might not be able to support the demand for that amount of current.
Use extension cords only for temporary portable equipment, not in place of your home's permanent wiring. Equipment supplied with electricity by an extension cord must have a lower amperage rating than that of the extension cord.
Using an extension cord for a portable heater, which requires a lot of amperage, could cause the extension cord to overheat at the cord end and outlet and start a fire.
Replace or have repaired by an electrician any frayed, split, cracked or otherwise damaged cords. Damaged cords can cause a short in the circuit, heat up, and start a fire. Wrapping electrical tape around a damaged cord may not repair it.
When removing an electrical cord from an outlet, grasp on the plug portion instead of the cord.
Do not lay cords under rugs, over nails or hooks, or through doorways or windows where they might get cut or split and cause a fire or shock hazard.
If you have small children in your home, cover unused electrical outlets with plastic safety caps.
Use bulbs that match the recommended wattage for an appliance or light fixture. Bulbs with wattages in excess of what is recommended may give off enough heat to start a fire.
If outlets or switch boxes are cracked or discolored, turn the circuit off and have them checked by an electrician. They might need to be replaced.
Keep heat-generating appliances and light bulbs away from anything flammable.
Allow sufficient space around stereos, televisions and computers to prevent over-heating.
Purchase appliances and cords with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or FM (Factory Mutual) label indicating they have been tested for safety.
Consider having additional circuits and outlets added to your home by an electrician, especially if you are using extension cords and power strips. The price tag will not be near what an electrical fire would cost in money and lives.
Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.