Electricity is one of the most important and revolutionary inventions in history. Despite the fact that it’s such a common part of our lives that we often don’t even think about it these days, few people realize just how dangerous it can be. Electricity is a powerful force which has the ability to do a tremendous amount of work, and as a result it can cause serious injuries if mishandled. While our homes are outfitted with some of the safest ways of harnessing and using electricity, those who aren’t aware of how to stay safe around it could still get injured.
This is especially true around the holiday season, as lights and other decorations require us to use even more electricity than we do throughout the rest of the year. To help you stay safe this season, here are four electrical safety tips you and your loved ones can follow.
Use Proper Safety Equipment
One of the biggest keys to electrical safety is the equipment which is installed in your home. If your equipment and components aren’t safe, then you could be at risk for a serious injury. First, make sure that any outlets which are in reach of small children have a self-closing mechanism installed. These are easy to find at any local home improvement store, and are designed to prevent anything from being inserted into the plug unless it’s an actual device itself.
Likewise, always make sure that your circuit breakers are in good health, and that any which show signs of wear and tear are quickly replaced. Your breakers are located on your breaker panel, which is either outside your home or located in a closet somewhere. If you have a breaker that regularly shuts off, even with just regular use, have it replaced by a professional.
Finally, when it comes to extension cords, make sure that you always use one that’s rated for what you’re doing. If you’re using electricity outside, use an outdoor-rated cord, even if it’s only for just a few moments. And never string together multiple extension cords to power a device—this increases the risk of a short and a fire significantly.
Check Electrical Cords
This tip should apply not just during the holidays, but all year long. In order to plug something in, there’s a good chance you probably have to connect a cord to your power outlet. These cords are what carry the electricity from your wall to your device, and as such most likely have 120 volts of AC current flowing through them. That’s more than enough to cause serious injuries. While cords themselves are insulated so you can handle them safely while they’re plugged in, the insulation is only good if it remains intact.
It’s easy for the plastic or rubber shielding around a cord to crack, break, or fray, exposing the current-carrying wire beneath. Touching this current-carrying wire makes you the shortest path for that electricity to reach the ground, and leads to an electric shock which can cause serious injury. This is especially true during the holidays, where old strings of lights may have worn out, and could be run through areas which are regularly hit by rain or gardening sprinklers.
Use GFCIs Where Water May Be Present
Ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets, or GFCIs for short, are a type of outlet which has a sensor installed in it that shuts off the outlet if too much current flows through too quickly. The reasoning is simple: if there’s a short in something plugged in to the outlet, the extra current will cause the outlet to trip, stopping the electricity flow and keeping you and your home safe.
Building codes actually mandate that you use these outlets anywhere that water may be present, including in your kitchen, bathrooms, garages, and outdoor locations. If water creates a short, the outlet will trip and shut off, preventing a fire, or worse, a serious injury to anyone who may be at risk for getting shocked.
Never Handle a Loose Wire
If you come across a downed powerline or spot a wire in your home that’s loose, never ever pick it up or try to touch it. You never know if the wire may still be live, and touching a live wire could make you a direct path for the current to reach the ground, causing electric shock, serious injury, or possibly even death. It’s not worth the risk.
If the loose wire is in your home, such as one sticking out from your wall, turn the power in your home off at the main breaker, and then carefully remove the plug or device where the loose wire is sticking out from. If you can find the spot, carefully reattach it. If not, call a professional and have them diagnose the issue.
If there’s a downed power line, stay well away from it. The voltage that runs through these lines can be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, which is a tremendous amount of power. Dial 911 and notify them of the line being down and they’ll contact a professional to come out and repair the downed line straight away.If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, call Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC at (866) 675-4427 to request a case evaluation.