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Published on
November 2nd, 2023

Winter Conditions Lead To Increased Risk of Electrical Fires: Here’s What Property Owners Can Do To Prevent Them

In any given year, the FDNY may respond to over 300,000 fire and non-fire emergencies. In addition to causing potential loss of life, the damage is devastating to property owners in the city. In the U.S., fire damage results in billions of dollars in financial losses.

Electrical fires are the most common cause of residential fires, responsible for over 36% of them. Learning how to prevent electrical fires is essential for keeping your tenants and buildings safe. Discover the most common causes of electrical fires and how to avoid them.

How To Prevent Electrical Fires

Understanding the Most Common Causes

Electrical fires usually result from improper installations and poor maintenance. Incorrectly installed or outdated wiring can lead to overheating, arcing, and sparks within the wall cavity, which can ignite insulation, wood, and other building materials.

Worn or older sockets without correct grounding can also lead to fires. The outlets may cause overloaded circuits and overheating. Ensure that all outlets in your property are up to current NYC building codes by hiring Bolt Electric for a system assessment.

Finally, the use of frayed cords can spark a fire. Regular maintenance checks for damaged or aged extension cords and appliance cords can help reduce your risks by eliminating the problem.

The standard recommendation for electrical system inspections is once every three to five years. Still, that is a minimum requirement. Professional annual inspections are best if you want to protect your property and reduce the fire risks in your system.

How To Keep Your Tenants and Property Safe

Safety Tips and Checks

Learning how to prevent electrical fires in the winter is about understanding how the cold might affect system usage and strain. During colder months, people are home more often and invest in items to keep themselves warm, such as heated blankets, space heaters, and foot warmers. Because they are home more often, tenants use their appliances and devices more frequently, and often simultaneously.

The increased usage and number of plugged-in devices can strain a system. If that system is already vulnerable — for instance, if it has loose or damaged wiring, outdated outlets, or defective elements — there is a greater fire risk.

The heating season in NYC is the perfect time to send out fire safety notices to all tenants. The notices should include practical tips for fire prevention and focus on at least three categories: appliances, outlets, and power strips and extension cords.

Appliance Safety

Appliances are among the leading causes of electrical fires, often because of poor maintenance or improper use. To learn how to prevent electrical fires, tenants must understand how to connect to the electrical system and should know the signs of damaged appliances.

Never plug an appliance into an extension cord; the devices should always plug directly into an appropriate wall outlet. Major appliances, such as dryers, refrigerators, stoves, space heaters, and more, can draw too much energy through the extension cord and cause it to overheat, possibly resulting in a fire.

To avoid smaller appliances overheating, unplug them when not in use. There is no reason to keep toasters, coffee machines, chargers, and home office equipment plugged in. The devices continually draw power; if defective, they may draw too much and cause a fire.

Always check the cords of appliances. Replace a device if its cords are loose, damaged, or cracked. If you do not want to replace the entire appliance, take it to a repair technician for a new cord and to ensure that the device is still in working order.

Even smaller, everyday appliances like lamps can present fire risks. Ensure tenants and staff only use lightbulbs with recommended wattages in lamps and light fixtures. Bulbs with higher wattages may attempt to draw more power to the fixture, again risking fire.

Knowing how to prevent electrical fires is also about learning how to interact with electrical devices. Keep all flammable objects away from electronics and potential heat sources. Additionally, keep space heaters away from walls and furniture. Electronics and electric devices need space to allow heat to dissipate.

Outlet Safety

Broken, worn, or damaged outlets are not the only threat to your building. Misuse of outlets can also increase the risk of electrical fires. One of the best things you can do for your facility is install GFCI outlets wherever possible and necessary. The outlets automatically interrupt the circuit to prevent electrical surges and other issues.

Furthermore, ensure all tenants and staff know that plugs must be inserted and sit completely and snugly into an outlet. Plugs only partially in the outlet can cause sparks, arcing, and possible shock. If a plug sits loosely in an outlet, it may work out of the socket with minimal interference. Replace any outlets that do not keep plugs firm and in place.

Never remove a prong from a three-prong cord to make it fit a two-prong outlet. The third prong is for grounding; a three-prong cord needs an appropriate, grounded outlet.

Finally, if tenants have children and want to know how to prevent electrical fires, encourage them to install tamper-resistant and child-proof outlets. Young children are inquisitive and often stick things into outlets that can cause electric shocks or fires.

Power Strips and Extension Cord Safety

Power strips and extension cords are probably among the most dangerous items tenants possess. People often assume that an extension cord or power strip gives them more outlets and power than they have. While physical plug openings may increase, the available power supply does not.

Power strips and extension cords make it easy to overload outlets and circuits. Tenants might plug their computers, televisions, tablets, and other devices into power strips. A circuit might handle all the elements on a strip, but only if other outlets on the circuit are not in use simultaneously. If you want to use power strips, make sure they have internal overload protections.

How To Prevent Electrical Fires With Professional Maintenance and Inspections

Knowing how to prevent electrical fires is about understanding fundamental electrical safety and ensuring the upkeep of vital electrical components and systems. Contact Bolt Electric at 212-434-0098 to schedule necessary maintenance and inspections. You can also talk to a representative to learn about service contracts.

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