May is Electrical Safety Month

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared May as Electrical Safety Month to emphasize that plugging into prevention is everyone’s responsibility to avoid electrical fire, injury or electrocution. Citizens are urged to practice electrical safety and be aware of potential home electrical hazards especially in older homes, previously owned homes, homes that have been renovated or where major new appliances have been added within the last 10 years. Is your home up to code? Were proper permits obtained?

“Have a basic understanding of your home electrical system, don’t overload it, and make sure it’s updated to handle any increased electrical demands due to renovations or additional appliances,” said BCC Director Keith Lambert. “Don’t attempt electrical work by yourself or electrical wiring which is beyond your skill level. Hire a qualified, licensed electrician to perform any electrical work.”

Last year, there were seven civilian deaths, 77 civilian injuries, and 23 fire fighter injuries related to electrical home structure fires in Michigan, as reported by fire departments throughout the state. The main causes of electrical residential fires were related to heat from powered and operating equipment that lead to 2,344 reported fires. The total dollar loss resulting from those home fires caused by electrical failure or malfunction was more than $34.6 million.

Here are electrical safety tips for home:

– Never throw water on an electrical fire! Water conducts electricity. Electricity from the fire can shoot through the water and expose you to electrocution.

– Replace worn out electrical cords, switches and outlets.

– Minimize the use of extension cords. If you do use extension cords, don’t overload them or plug them into one another. Use cords according to indoor/outdoor ratings.

– Don’t overload outlets with too many appliances.

– Keep hot irons and curling irons out of reach of small children and away from water.

– Charge laptop computers, iPads, and cell phones on a hard surface such as a desk or countertop – never charge them on a bed or chair that could overheat and catch on fire.

– Don’t overload electrical circuits. Surge protectors protect equipment, but they do not provide protection from the potential hazards of an overloaded circuit.

– Properly childproof outlets by installing tamper-resistant receptacles that offer a permanent solution to outlet covers. All 15A-20A and 125v outlets throughout your home must be tamper resistant. Built-in shutters prevent foreign objects from being inserted into the outlet.

– Properly protect your home against ground faults with the correct installation of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) — your best protection against electrocution. GFCI protection is required for kitchen countertops, bathrooms and laundry area, garage, crawl space, dishwasher, and all outdoor outlets including those located on balconies, decks, and porches, and outlets within 6 ft. of a sink, bathtub or shower.

– Keep valuable electronics safe with surge protection. A power surge is a sudden and unwanted increase in voltage that can damage, degrade, or destroy electronic equipment. Surges can occur when large appliances, such as air conditioners, turn on and off. No surge protection can handle a direct lightning strike. Disconnect sensitive electronics if a thunderstorm with expected lightning is on the way.

– Consider having whole home surge protection that protects your entire electrical system including large appliances, outlets, and light switches. This option protects against larger surges and provides longer lasting surge protection than point -of-use devices. A qualified licensed electrician must install it under a permit.

– When purchasing or using electrical products, look for the independent testing laboratory mark such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), to confirm compliance with industry safety requirements.

Call a licensed electrician right away if you have any of these warning signs:

– A circuit breaker that trips immediately after it is reset shows there is an electrical problem.

– Dim or flickering lights, bulbs that wear out too quickly.

– Unusually warm or overheated plugs, cords or switches.

Call the fire department immediately anytime you hear a buzzing or hissing sound, or smell something hot or burning, and get out.

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