West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) attended more than 350 fires caused by unsafe electrics from January to September 2014, the organisation revealed in an electric safety campaign to mark Electrical Fire Safety Week.
Although people will become increasingly reliant on electrical appliances over the coming weeks and months as they spend more time at home and need to keep warm and well-fed, these appliances can be very dangerous, WYFRS explained.
Electric blankets pose a particular hazard, with WYFRS attending 24 fires caused by these devices in the last five years. It advised people to test blankets every three years, to replace them after ten years, to unplug them before they go to bed if they do not have a thermostat control for overnight use, and to never put a hot water bottle in the same bed as an electric blanket.
Some of the fire service’s other top electrical fire safety tips include:
Use RCD protection
RCDs are potentially life-saving devices that protect people against deadly electric shocks, offering a level of safety that circuit breakers and ordinary fuses cannot deliver. RCD protection should be used in all electrical installations, but is especially important when electrical equipment is being used outdoors.
Be careful when buying electrical chargers
Many imported electrical chargers do not meet the UK’s safety requirements and can lead to fires and electrocution. Therefore, chargers should only be bought from reputable sources.
Don’t buy substandard or counterfeit electronics
Thousands of house fires are caused by faulty electronics, and counterfeit items can contain faulty or incorrect parts that can overheat or break down in just a matter of days. Bargains that seem too good to be true probably are, WYFRS said.
Don’t leave electrical appliances turned on when they are not in use
Switch appliances off at the socket when you are in bed or when the house is unoccupied, unless they are designed to be left on constantly (such as fridge-freezers).
Keep appliances in a good working order
Clean appliances regularly to keep them working properly, and keep an eye out for fuseboxes that keep tripping, flickering lights and fuses that blow, as these suggest an electronic item is malfunctioning.
Visually inspect electrics
Keep electrical cables away from hot surfaces and open flames, and check for worn or frayed cables and wires. Look for scorch marks around sockets and check that cables are connected to plugs properly. Perform these checks whenever you use an appliance.
Keep combustible items away from electrical intake equipment and other heat sources
Electrical intake equipment, such as consumer units or service head meters, may be located in cupboards. Don’t store other combustible materials, such as flammable and volatile chemicals, coats or papers in these cupboards.
Don’t overload electric plug sockets
Aim to only have one plug in one socket. If you need to use an extension lead, remember these leads have an amp limit, so be careful not to overload extension leads.
Check that your appliances and electronics haven’t been recalled
The last six years have seen more than 250 electrical products be recalled, with these recalls mainly due to fire or electrocution risks. However, response rates for these recalls are very low – typically between just 10% and 20%. Electrical Safety First’s online product checker will let you discover if any of your electronics have been recalled.
Ian Bitcon, WYFRS Area Manager for Fire Safety, also issued the following advice:
- Don’t dry clothes with portable heaters
- Use the right chargers for electrical appliances
- Don’t fold electric blankets – store them rolled-up or flat to avoid damaging their internal wiring
- Keep electrics well-maintained
Don’t attempt to make any changes to your electricals if you are unsure or not confident. Some electrical work in the home requires compliance with Part P building control and needs to be done in accordance with BS7671 wiring regulations. Don’t forget – electricity is VERY dangerous and can kill you.
Instead, call 24|7 Home Rescue on 0345 3192 247 and we can help. Our technical teams will run through some very simple troubleshooting with you over the phone to see if your problem can be resolved easily and if not, they will book one of our qualified and highly knowledgeable Part P certified engineers to get you back up and running as soon as possible.