Electricity is a major cause of house fires each year. Since outdated electrical systems can’t handle the demands of today’s devices, malfunctions, electrical fires, injury and electrocution may result. We may forget that like our phones, which update with a simple press of a button, homes need an occasional update, too!
You might be tempted to press that “not now” or “remind me later” button when it comes to updating your homes. But, Indiana Electric Cooperatives notes, it’s easy to incorporate new technology in our homes to help reduce the risk of fires and electrocutions.
Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in an estimated 46,500 home fires in 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires caused 420 deaths, 1,520 injuries and $1.5 billion in property damage
“The statistics are staggering,” said Tom VanParis, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “And fire is not the only danger. Thousands of children and adults are critically injured and electrocuted annually from electrical hazards in their own homes.”
There are five main devices that can help keep you and your home safe. First, there is the arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) receptacle that, as you may have guessed, stops arc faults. Arc faults can occur when older wires become frayed or cracked, when a nail or screw damages a wire behind a wall, or when outlets or circuits are compromised. AFCIs will protect appliances, cords plugged into receptacles, and you!
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are outlets that prevent deadly shock by quickly shutting off power to the circuit if the electricity flowing into the circuit differs by even the slightest amount. These outlets should be used inside and outside where any water may come into contact with electronic devices, such as in the kitchen and bathroom or by the pool.
Tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs) may catch the eyes of customers with young children in the house. They are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the openings, or slots, preventing someone from inserting an object. TRRs are now required in all newly constructed homes, but if your existing home does not have them, this is not your next DIY project. Tamper-resistant receptacles can only be installed by a licensed electrician.
Our favorite dynamic duo is smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Many homes are not equipped with the appropriate number of alarms. To ensure safety, install these devices on every level outside each sleeping area. Don’t forget to test your alarms once a month, replace the batteries once a year, and replace the alarms every 10 years. Don’t rely on past homeowners to follow these simple safety measures when you move into a new home. Many devices could be outdated or nonfunctional, and it’s your duty to check them to ensure your family’s safety! And remember, neither the carbon monoxide detector nor the smoke alarm is a substitute for the other; both are very important for your safety.
Let this information be your guide in keeping your home up-to-date and safe. If you would like more information on home safety devices, contact your local electric cooperative.
Tamper-resistant receptacles: Childproofing done right
Do you have tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs) installed in your home to protect your children and grandchildren?
- Nearly one-third of parents with young children do not have their outlets childproofed.
- 86 percent of parents who childproof their outlets use plastic outlet caps.
- 40 percent agree that plastic outlet caps could be removed by toddlers.
- 44 percent are not familiar at all with TRRs.
- 61 percent who have TRRs said they were already installed before they moved into the home.
Why are TRRs preferred over other outlet protection?
- 100 percent of all 2-4 year olds were able to remove one type of plastic outlet cap within 10 seconds in a study by Temple University.
- Outlet caps may pose as a choking hazard.
What’s your escape plan?
You’ve heard of preventive technology devices that can keep you and your home safe. But just because you have those devices doesn’t guarantee your home will never have a fire. Follow these steps to create an escape plan for your family:
- Everyone in your family, including children, should be involved in creating your fire escape plan.
- Make sure everyone in your home knows what the fire alarm sounds like and what it means.
- Walk through your home and note any possible exits, including windows. Draw a floor plan of your house and mark two ways to escape from each room. Make sure doors and windows leading to the outside can be opened easily by everyone in the family.
- Establish a meeting place a safe distance outside your home where your family will gather after escaping. The meeting place should be something permanent and easy to identify, such as a tree, light pole or mailbox, and should be a place where firefighters will easily see you.
- Teach everyone in the family to call 911 from a neighbor’s home or cellphone once they have safely gotten outside.
- Practice your escape plan by having at least two fire drills every year. For optimum preparation, have a drill during the night when family members are sleeping.