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What Causes Electrical Fires In Homes?

Your home could be in danger of an electrical fire if your electrical outlets are old or faulty – or your wiring is outdated. These fires can happen at any time and knowing what to do in such an emergency can keep your family safe.

What causes electrical fires in homes? Find out more information here…

It is an electrical outlet

The Most Common Causes

Causes of electrical fires include:

  • Faulty appliances or outlets – electrical fires can start in frayed appliance cords or defective switches, sending heat onto combustible surfaces that result in a fire
  • Two-pronged plugs – these may not be able to handle extra amounts of electricity that appliances need
  • High wattage bulbs – in lamps and lights are a leading cause for electrical fires, the recommended wattage should always be checked
  • Materials placed over lampshades – paper or cloth over a light can quickly ignite to cause a fire
  • Misuse of extension cords – these should only be used as a temporary measure as appliances should be plugged directly into a socket
  • Portable heaters – positioned too close to combustible materials like clothing, beds, and sofas
  • Outdated wiring – wiring capacity in older properties may not be handle increases in electricity and old circuit breakers with worn connectors won’t prevent a system overload

Electrical circuit breaker

How to Address A Small Electrical Fire

Try not to panic and learn what to do in an electrical fire by taking these steps:

  • Switch off the power – look for a way to turn off the power to a particular item by unplugging or flipping a switch on the circuit breaker to kill the power
  • Avoid using water – this can cause an electric shock as water conducts electricity
  • Call the emergency services – get the experts to come and inspect your premises even if you’ve managed to put the fire out

Dealing with A Developing Fire

Make sure you have an escape route before you attempt to put out the fire. Having more than one way to safely evacuate is a reason to stay – but if there’s only one way out you need to let the fire department take over so that you don’t get trapped. As soon as you feel endangered you should leave – closing the doors behind you.

If you can’t get the electricity turned off, or the fire is becoming out of control you need to call the fire department. Explain that the fire is electrical so that the right equipment can quickly be allocated.

When the Electricity is Still Turned On

How to put out an electrical fire with the area still energised means erring on the side of caution. You can smother a small fire with baking soda to block the oxygen supply. Knowing what to use on electrical fires may save lives – the type of fire extinguisher you use is very specific.

An electrical fire is known as a Class C fire and needs a Class C fire extinguisher, but you can also use a fire extinguisher with an ABC label as this is able to stop fires caused by electrical equipment.

Using the fire extinguisher properly is key. Memorising the simple word PASS will make operating the appliance easier if you don’t have to think about it:

  • P – pull the silver safety pin located on the handle
  • A – aim the nozzle and hose at the fire
  • S – squeeze the handle slowly
  • S – sweep from left to right to put out the entire fire

If the Power is Off

If you’ve been able to turn off the electrical supply you can use any type of fire extinguisher. Or you can smother the fire with a fire blanket or other type of thick blanket. If you do this quickly a small fire can be put out completely. You should only douse the fire with water if you’re 100% sure that the electricity is turned off.

Two appliances plugged into electricity

Preventing an Electrical Fire

Electrical fires – what to do has been covered above. But what about electrical fire safety precautions? See tips here…

  • Keep heat-producing appliances unplugged when not in use
  • Don’t plug in devices with damaged cables
  • Always follow manufactures instructions and electrical recommendations
  • Avoid overloading electrical adaptors by plugging in too many appliances into one socket
  • Keep portable electric heaters away from flammable materials
  • Update your homes electrical system – get in touch with a 24-hour emergency electrician if you have any concerns – and make sure you have any electrical installation in your home checked by a registered electrician