Electrical fires pose a significant risk to both property and human life. Unlike traditional fires, electrical fires are often more challenging to extinguish and can spread rapidly. These fires are caused by faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, and malfunctioning electrical equipment. Understanding the dangers associated with electrical fires is crucial for implementing effective safety measures. When an electrical fire occurs, the risk of electric shock is heightened, making it essential to approach the situation cautiously. In this post, I’ll walk you through how to put out an electrical fire safely.
The first step in putting out electrical fires is to switch off or unplug power sources. For small electrical fires, you can use a blanket or heavy clothing. However, your best bet is to spray the source of fire using a class C fire extinguisher.
Away from the immediate danger posed by the flames, electrical fires can also result in extensive damage to the structure of a building. These fires generate intense heat that can weaken the integrity of the building’s materials and increase the risk of collapse.
Toxic fumes released during an electrical fire can pose extreme health hazards to anyone nearby. Please stay with me as I discuss more on electrical fires and how to keep your home and family safe from these fires.
What Is Electrical Fire
Electrical fires are fires that start from electrical sources or systems, such as wires, outlets, appliances, or lighting fixtures. They can be very dangerous and destructive, as they can spread quickly and result in severe damage to a home and its belongings.
These fires also seriously threaten your health, producing toxic smoke and fumes that can harm your lungs and other organs. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical fires account for about 6.3% of all residential fires and result in an average of 310 deaths, 1,100 injuries, and $871 million in property loss per year.
Causes of Electrical Fires
So, what causes electrical fires in the first place? Many factors can contribute to electrical fires, but some of the most common ones are:
Faulty or damaged wiring: If your house has old, frayed, worn, or loose wiring, it can overheat, spark, and ignite nearby flammable materials. Additionally, this can happen if your wiring is not installed or maintained properly or if it is exposed to moisture, rodents, or pests.
Inspect your wiring and have it by a licensed electrician regularly, and replace any damaged or outdated wiring as soon as possible.
Overloaded circuits or outlets: If you plug too many devices or appliances into a single circuit or outlet, there is a chance that you can overload, causing overheating and catching fire.
Overheating can happen if you use extension cords, power strips, or adapters that are not rated for the amount of power you draw. Avoid overloading your circuits or outlets, and use only approved and compatible devices and accessories. You should also install circuit breakers or fuses that can shut off the power in case of an overload.
Faulty or malfunctioning appliances or equipment: If your appliances are defective, poorly maintained, or misused, they can cause electrical fires. Electrical fire can also happen if your appliances or equipment have faulty cords, switches, or plugs or are incompatible with the voltage or frequency of your power supply.
Check your appliances and equipment regularly for indicators of wear and repair or replace them as needed. Observing the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when using them can help.
Poor or careless use of heat-producing devices: If you use heat-producing devices like space heaters, curling irons, or lamps near flammable materials like curtains, bedding, or furniture, you can easily start a fire, especially if you leave them unattended.
How to Handle Electrical Fire Incidences at Home
As I have stated, electrical fire starts from an electrical source or system, such as a wire, outlet, appliance, or light fixture. They can cause significant damage, so knowing how to put out an electrical fire safely and effectively is important. Below are some of the steps you can follow if you encounter an electrical fire:
Contact emergency services. If you see an electrical fire, you should first call 911 and report the fire. Make them aware of your location, the size, and the location of the fire. Also, inform them of whether anyone is injured or trapped.
Sometimes, you feel capable of putting out the fire by yourself, but it is still better to have professional help on the way in case the fire gets out of control or causes other problems.
Turn off the power sources. The next thing you should do in the event of an electrical fire is turn off the power to the source of the fire. It will stop the flow of electric current and prevent further sparking or arcing that can fuel the fire.
You can do this by unplugging the appliance or device on fire or turning off the circuit breaker or the power controls in that area. If you cannot safely reach the plug or the breaker, do not attempt to do so and move on to the next step.
Use the right fire extinguisher. The best way to put out an electrical fire is to use a fire extinguisher suitable for electrical fires. The best choice is a Class C or Class ABC fire extinguisher designed to fight fires involving electrical equipment.
Note: Avoid using a Class A fire extinguisher, which works best for ordinary combustibles like wood or paper; it can worsen the fire. Also, don’t use water; it can conduct electricity and shock or spread the fire.
To use a fire extinguisher, stick to the PASS method: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base before Squeezing the handle, and Sweep from side to side until the fire is out.
If you don’t have a fire extinguisher or if it runs out before the fire is out, you can try smothering the fire using baking soda.
Baking soda has sodium bicarbonate that can help extinguish electrical fires by releasing carbon dioxide and cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire. Pour a g amount of baking soda over the fire for complete coverage.
Alternatively, use a metal lid, a baking sheet, or a wool blanket to smother the fire, but do not use anything that is flammable or can melt, such as plastic or rubber.
Evacuate and wait for help. If none of the above methods work for you or the fire is too large or dangerous to fight, you should evacuate the area as soon as possible and wait for help.
If you can, close the doors behind you to prevent the fire from spreading. Ensure you alert other people in the building and help them safely.
Return to the building only after the fire department confirms it is safe. Please do not touch or move anything damaged by fire; it may be hot, live, or unstable.
How to Prevent an Electrical Fire?
Here are some steps you can follow to prevent an electrical fire in your home or workplace:
Have your electrical system inspected and maintained by a licensed electrician regularly. Inspect your wiring, outlets, switches, and appliances for any damage, wear, or corrosion for damage, wear, or corrosions.
Replace any outdated or faulty wiring, fuses, or circuit breakers. Always go for a professional electrician who can help you identify and correct any electrical issues before they become hazards.
Use only approved and compatible electrical devices and accessories. It would help if you did not use extension cords, power strips, or adapters not drafted for the amount of power you draw.
Avoid plugging many devices into one outlet or circuit, as it can cause overload, overheat, and catch fire.
It would be best to use surge protectors with internal overload protection to prevent power surges and spikes.
Follow the manufacturer’s manual and safety precautions when using electrical appliances and equipment. Do not use any appliance or equipment that is defective or damaged.
Using electrical equipment for wrong purposes can also result in electrical fires, so you should avoid such carelessness at all costs.
Ensure you unplug any unused appliance or equipment when leaving the room. Remember to keep the appliance or equipment away from flammable items, like curtains, bedding, or furniture.
Install and conduct tests on your home’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Installing a smoke alarm will help you detect the possibility of a fire outbreak in the house. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside and outside every sleeping area.
Furthermore, ensure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home and near any fuel-burning appliances or equipment.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms should be tested at least monthly to ensure they are fully functional, and their batteries should be replaced at least once a year.
Replace any smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector over 10 years old.
It would be best to have a fire extinguisher and an evacuation plan ready in an emergency. Have a fire extinguisher suitable for electrical fires, like a Class C or Class ABC fire extinguisher, and know how to use it properly.
Have an evacuation plan with a safe exit route and a meeting place outside your home. Practice your evacuation plan with your family at least twice a year. Call 911 and report the fire as soon as possible.
Check for Frayed Wires: Regularly inspect your electrical appliances and cords for signs of frayed or damaged wires. Frayed wires pose a significant fire hazard, so replacing them immediately is crucial if you notice any issues.
Avoid Overloading Circuits: Overloading a circuit by plugging in too many devices can cause overheating and fire. It’s important to distribute the usage of electrical outlets and circuits to prevent overloading and reduce the risk of fire.
Use Surge Protectors: Installing surge protectors is an effective way to safeguard your valuable electronics from power surges, which can be a common cause of electrical fires. Surge protectors can minimize the risk of damage to your electronics and lower the likelihood of a fire.
Regular Maintenance: Having a professional electrician conduct regular electrical system inspections is crucial for identifying and addressing potential issues that could lead to a fire. Regular maintenance ensures that your electrical system is in good working condition and minimizes the risk of fire hazards.
The above are some of the steps to take to prevent an electrical fire and protect your home and others from harm.
Common Mistakes You Should Avoid When Dealing With Electrical Fires
Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid when dealing with electrical fires:
Do not try to put out an electrical fire with water. Water is a good conductor of electricity, and it can cause an electric shock or spread the fire if you use it to put out an electrical fire.
Water can also damage your electrical system and appliances, creating more hazards. Therefore, you should avoid using water-based extinguishers when dealing with electrical fires.
If you use a fire extinguisher, it has to be suitable for electrical fires, such as a Class C or Class ABC fire extinguisher. Alternatively, you can smother the fire using baking soda or a metal lid.
Do not use an unsuitable type of fire extinguisher. Not all fire extinguishers are the same, and using the wrong type of fire can worsen the fire or cause an explosion. For example, a Class A fire extinguisher, meant for ordinary combustibles like wood or paper, can feed the fire or create a chemical reaction with the electrical source.
You should always check the fire extinguisher’s label and use the appropriate one for the type of fire. When using a fire extinguisher, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the PASS method (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep).
Do not touch or move anything involved in the electrical fire. Electrical fires can create a live current that can shock or electrocute you if you touch or move wires, outlets, appliances, or equipment.
You should always keep a safe distance from the fire and avoid touching or moving anything on fire or near the fire. You should also wear gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself from the heat, sparks, and smoke.
Don’t try to fight the fire alone or without calling for help. Electrical fires can be unpredictable and dangerous, and you should not try to fight them alone or without calling for help.
You should always call 911 and report the fire as soon as possible. Inform the authority of your location and all the details regarding the injured, injured, or trapped.
Although you may think you can put out the fire yourself, it is better to have a professional fireperson to help if the fire gets out of control or causes other problems.
You should also alert other people in the building and help them get out safely.
Avoid staying in the building or going back into the building. Electrical fires can produce a lot of smoke and fumes, reducing visibility and air quality and making breathing hard.
Smoke and fumes can also contain harmful substances, like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, that can cause respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, or even death.
If there is an electrical fire, you should never stay in the building or return unless it is necessary or safe. You should evacuate the area and wait for help outside. Close the doors behind you to prevent the fire from spreading.
The above are some common mistakes to avoid when dealing with electrical fires.
How to Put Out an Electrical Fire
Mastering emergency protocol for extinguishing electrical fires and implementing preventive measures is essential for safeguarding lives and property. By understanding the dangers of electrical fires, identifying their causes, and establishing comprehensive emergency protocols, individuals and businesses can effectively respond to these incidents.
Critical components of comprehensive fire safety include:
- Prioritizing safety.
- Investing in appropriate fire safety equipment.
- Avoiding common mistakes when dealing with electrical fires.
Preventive measures, such as regular system maintenance and promoting responsible use of electrical equipment, are crucial in reducing the likelihood of electrical fires.
Additionally, being well-informed about emergency contact information, legal and insurance considerations, and seeking professional guidance when necessary can facilitate a smoother recovery after an electrical fire.
In conclusion, mastering emergency protocol and fire safety measures empowers individuals and businesses to mitigate the risks associated with electrical fires and ensure a swift and effective response in an emergency.
This comprehensive guide provides essential insights into the complexities of electrical fires and highlights the importance of proactive measures to prevent such incidents.
Knowing how to put out an electrical fire safely and effectively is important.