Friday, May 1, 2020

Don't Overload Your Home

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Kids are home from school. Adults are telecommuting. Home learning continues. If you are facing a full house it is more important than ever to make fire safety a top priority in your home. Technology is an important part of our lives -- especially in these COVID-19 days -- with  everyone plugged IN. With more people charging mobile devices, using laptops and desktop computers and appliances running at the same time, Fire Chief Goldstein is asking families to be fire safe and fire smart and is sharing some important electrical fire safety tips to protect your family now. . . and for years to come.

One of the Chief's simplest electrical safety tips is also one of the easiest to forget: when an appliance is not in use, unplug it. Not only does this save you power by reducing any phantom drain (the amount of energy the device consumes even when not actively in use) but unplugging unused appliances also protects them from overheating or power surges ... and igniting a fire.   

  • Extension cords and power strips provide more outlets, NOT more power. (read again)
    Just because there are 6 outlets does not mean it is safe to use all of them.
  • Don't get overloaded when using extension cords. Extension cords are rated for capacity based on cord length and gauge. Do not exceed the manufacturer's recommendations. If the requirements of the items you plan to plug in exceed the circuit capacity, you are overloading the circuit and creating a potential fire hazard. Unplug your brother's PlayStation instead.   
  • Power strips do not play well together. Never "piggy back" or create a "daisy chain" with power strips. This means plugging one power strip into another power strip to increase the number of outlets. Creative? Yes. Dangerous? Very. Power strips are not designed to be used this way and doing so can result in a fire ... and then what are you going to do? 
  • All extension cords and power strips are not created equal. Know what you are buying. Only purchase cords certified by an independent testing lab like UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories). If there is no stamp or sticker on an electrical device you are thinking about purchasing, choose another product. 
  • It is easy to exceed the capacity of the power strip and the circuit, so use caution when adding multiple appliances to the strip. Only use light-load appliances on power strips like computers, phones, lamps, clocks, etc. Major appliances like your refrigerator are not "light-load" (even if it's empty) and need to be plugged into a dedicated wall outlet.
  • Use the right charger for the right product - that's the one provided by the manufacturer. Don't be tempted to pick up a cheap one on-line.They may not be compatible and may use  substandard materials or parts. Yep, increased fire risk. 
  • Understand that a surge protector, which is a feature in some but not all power strips, may protect your electrical equipment (such as your computer) from damage in the event of a surge of electricity; it does not function to prevent fires. 
  • Do not use power strips in damp or potentially wet areas such as a bathroom, a kitchen countertop or a garage that is not climate controlled. Water and power strips don't mix, and if they do, a fire or electrocution may result. If you must use a power strip in an area that is prone to moisture, buy one that is specially designed to be safe in such conditions. If you require a power strip in your garage, have a professional electrician hard wire a moisture-resistant one and mount it to a wall.
  • Never hide or cover a power strip or extension cord with anything like a rug. Electricity generates heat and that heat needs to disperse. If the cord is covered the heat becomes trapped the risk for a fire greatly increases. 
  • Periodically inspect the condition of power strips, including the cord and plug, test the reset button and make sure all plugs are firmly inserted into the outlets. If the power strip feels hot, or if a defect is found, discard the power strip and replace with a new one. Like, right away.
Bottom line: power strips and extension cords should be used with caution and are meant to be temporary and not permanent solutions. If you are using them on a more permanent basis, consider upgrading your home's electrical system by a qualified electrician. And thank you for staying home and staying safe during the current COVID-19 pandemic! We got this.
(and please don't forget to check your smoke alarms)

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