According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical failures cause 43,900 home fires every year. Those fires cause about 400 deaths, around 1,400 injuries and close to $1.5 billion dollars in property damage. One simple way homeowners can prevent costly electrical fires is with a home fire inspection.
Many fire departments offer this service—often free of charge. Ask your local department about having a professional inspect your home for potential electrical issues and recommend steps for improving fire safety.
Things a home fire inspector may review:
An inspector should review all fire hazards in your home, from testing smoke detectors to making sure curtains and other flammables are a safe distance from heat sources. Electrical factors they might inspect include:
- A proper ground. “One thing a home fire inspector should check is to make sure your home is grounded,” says Bill Burke, division manager of electrical engineering for the National Fire Protection Association. Grounding diverts excess current that may result from an electrical surge and helps to keep electrical systems, devices and humans safer.
- Electrical panel. “There should be air space around the main panel,” Burke says. Inside, there shouldn’t be evidence of overheating or corrosion, and the fuses and breakers should be the correct size.
- Appliances. “If you have a device that’s going to cause a home fire, it’s most likely going to be one that draws a lot of current,” Burke says. Inspectors might check the integrity of cords and plug-ins on fridges, stoves and other large appliances.
- Out-of-date equipment. A home fire inspector can suggest improvements to reduce the risk of an electrical fire. One important update would be to install arc-fault circuit interrupters, which are designed to detect fire-starting arcs and shut down power.
- General safety concerns. The inspector also should look for electrical hazards such as receptacles and switches that aren’t functioning properly, lightbulbs exceeding the maximum wattage, damaged cords and overloaded power strips.
What homeowners can do:
You also can help prevent electrical fires. Walk through your home to double-check that you’re using extension cords safely and to look for overheated switch plates, buzzing sounds coming from outlets and other signs it’s time to rewire your home.
How fire-safe is your home? Take this fire safety survey from the National Fire Protection Association.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.
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