20 tips to keep you safe around electricity.
- Keep electrical appliances and toys away from water.
- Be alert for damaged plugs and cords on outdoor electrical appliances and fixtures. Don’t touch or use them if damaged.
- Always be careful when you use any electrical appliance or toy inside your home.
- Never put your finger or anything other than an electrical plug in an outlet.
- Pull by the plug and not the cord when unplugging an appliance.
- Don’t use an electrical appliance when you’re wet.
- Be sure outlets near water sources have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
- Limit the number of appliances plugged into each outlet.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, cooking equipment is the cause of approximately 40 percent of home structure fires. As you prepare to show off your cooking and baking skills this holiday season, remember the following tips to avoid shocks or fires:
These steps are easy to follow and come at no extra cost. Making a habit out of them will save you both energy in the kitchen and money on your electric bill.
Safe Electricity urges everyone in the home to understand the importance of using space heaters safely:
- Purchase only space heaters that have been safety tested and UL approved. Make sure the unit has an emergency tip-over shut-off feature and heating element guards. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and care.
- Before using a space heater, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
- Make sure the heater is clean and in good condition.
- Place the heater out of high-traffic areas and on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface—NOT on carpets, furniture, or countertops.
- Space heaters have one purpose —to provide supplemental heating. Never use them to thaw pipes, cook food, or dry clothing or towels.
- Remember to keep space heaters at least three feet from combustible liquids, like fuel, spray cans, and paint, and flammable items such as draperies, blankets, and sofas.
- Never allow pets or children near an electric heater. Accidental contact could cause serious shock or burns.
- Do not overload circuits. Never use extension cords or multiple plugs with a space heater and make sure not to plug the unit into the same circuit as other electric appliances.
- If your space heater is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and it trips, don’t assume there is something wrong with the GFCI. Immediately stop using the heater until a professional can check it— if not, a serious shock could occur.
- Never leave space heaters unattended. Turn off your space heater and unplug it before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Replace older space heaters with newer, safer models.
Many people also use electric blankets to keep warm during cold winter nights. Before plugging in electric blankets, check for any damage and inspect cord for frays, cracks, or cuts. Do not tuck electric blankets under the mattress and place nothing on top of the blanket while it’s in use, including comforters and bedspreads. Don’t allow pets to sleep on the electric blanket.
Don’t cut corners when buying and using phone chargers
People are always losing their phone chargers.
As a solution, many people reach for the low-cost, generic plug-in USB chargers and charging cables found in the sea of impulse items that flank check-out lines. It can save money and it’s so convenient, most people rationalize when making a purchase. Without much more thought, in the virtual cart or on the counter it goes.
Knockoffs can be great, but not when replacing your original phone charger, and for a variety of reasons.
“Although it is tempting to pick up an inexpensive phone charger to save money, buying and using cheap chargers is one place you might not want to cut corners,” according to Molly Hall, Executive Director of the Energy Education Council/Safe Electricity program. “Using an authentic replacement charger made by your mobile phone’s manufacturer is always a better choice.”
Along with a potential burn and fire hazard, using cheaply made charging components and devices can also cause shock and electrocution. Serious potential dangers aside, they may cost you more in the long run since they can cause damage to your phone, tablet, or other electronic devices.
When using charging gear, Safe Electricity recommends the following:
- Do not leave items that are charging unattended.
- Always keep charging items away from flammable objects, especially bedding, and do not take them to bed with you. Tell kids and teens to NEVER place any charging device under their pillow. The heat generated gets trapped, which could cause the pillow or bed to catch fire.
- Do not touch charging electronic devices with wet hands or while standing in water.
- Make sure charging components are certified by a reputable third-party testing laboratory.
- Only buy product-approved chargers and cables (those made or certified by the manufacturer). Using cheaper devices can cause damage to the USB charge chip, which can have a lasting impact on how quickly and effectively your device charges in the future.
- Be on the lookout for fakes or imposters claiming to be brand approved. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
College students innocently plug in all tools—study lamps, laptops, TVs, stereos, grooming and other electrical devices—unaware of the potential dangers.
Safe Electricity urges parents to make sure their student is educated on safe appliance use, precautions against overloading outlets, and other potential electrical hazards.
In its most recent report, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 3,570 fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks each year. The tragic results: an average of seven deaths, 54 injuries, and nearly $30 million in direct property damage per year.
“The limited number of electric outlets in student rooms can tempt many to use multiple extension cords and power strips, which can cause cords to overheat, creating shock and fire hazards,” warns Erin Hollinshead, Safe Electricity Executive Director. “Student residences crammed with books, papers, and bedding can allow the smallest spark to quickly become ablaze.”
Safety steps to prevent and reduce the risk of electrical fires in student housing include:
- Purchase and use only UL-rated electrical appliances and power cords.
- Avoid overloading extension cords, power strips, or outlets.
- Use extension cords only on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent solutions.
- Use power strips with an over-current protector that will shut off power automatically if there is too much current being drawn.
- Never tack or nail an electrical cord to any surface or run cords across traffic paths or under rugs where they can be trampled or damaged.
- Use the correct wattage light bulbs for lamps and fixtures. If no indication is on the product, do not use a bulb with more than 60 watts. Use cooler, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) when possible.
- Keep all electrical appliances and cords safely away from bedding, curtains, papers, and other flammable material.
- Make sure outlets around sinks are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) before use.
- Unplug small appliances when not in use and all electronics when away for extended periods.
Older wiring in student housing and apartments may not be able to handle the increased electrical demand of today’s college students. If the use of an appliance frequently causes power to trip off, or if its power cord or the outlet feels hot, the appliance should be disconnected immediately and the condition reported to the landlord or campus housing staff.
A fire escape plan is essential for every student. Whether apartment or dorm residents, make sure they know evacuation procedures and emergency exit locations in the event of a fire.
Emphasize to students that smoke detectors should never be disabled, and fire alarms should never be ignored or taken casually as a drill. If a fire alarm sounds, residents should calmly and quickly follow practiced procedures and immediately exit the building. The apartment and dorm doors should be closed behind to prevent the spread of fire.
“Stress to students that in the event of a fire, follow safety procedures and get out of harm’s way immediately,” remarked Hollinshead. “Property and valuables can be replaced, but lives cannot.”
For more fire and electrical safety information, visit the Safe Electricity website.
One of a parent’s highest priorities is to protect their children. One way to do this is by teaching them about safety around electricity in your own home.
“Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them,” says Amber Sabin, Safe Electricity Advisory Board member. “However, curiosity can lead to trouble if we don’t take an active role in educating them about potential dangers. Start teaching kids at an early age about electrical safety.”
Twelve-year-old Caitlyn Mackenzie was killed by a household current when she touched a lamp while still damp after swimming in a pool. Her life may have been spared if the outdoor outlet that the lamp was connected to was equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
Teach children that water and electricity do not mix. Children should never play with or use electronics around water. Make sure GFCIs are installed anywhere electricity and water could meet to help prevent shocks. GFCIs detect and prevent dangerous situations where an electric shock could occur.
Inform kids that the only objects that go into outlets are electric plugs. Sticking other items in an electric socket can lead to an electric shock or death. As a parent, you can help prevent this by having tamper-resistant outlets (TROs) installed. A TRO has a shutter system that only accepts electric plugs. Another option is to use simple outlet plugs, however, these can be easily removed.
Tell children that electric cords should be left alone. A curious child may put a cord into his or her mouth and could potentially suffer an electric burn. Additionally, kids should be taught to never pull a plug out of the socket by the cord. This could damage the cord. It is a good idea to leave cords out of sight so children are not tempted to play with them.
Emphasize that electronics and their accessories have to be handled with care. Also, advise kids to never stick fingers or objects into toasters or any other electrical appliance. Encourage younger children to ask for help when they want to use an electronic device.
“It’s a good idea to include utility emergency numbers with other posted emergency phone numbers and instruct children how to call for help in an emergency,” advises Sabin. “Hopefully, they will never have to use them, but it’s always best to be safe first, rather than sorry later.”