How to Avoid Electrical Fires

This electrical fire caused $100,000 in damages. Three families were involved.

This electrical fire caused $100,000 in damages. Three families were involved.

Every year, 28,600 families deal with an electrical fire in their home. Homeowners could send this statistic up in smoke if people took more fire prevention steps. Let’s look at some of the more common causes of electrical fires and the measures we can adopt to avoid them:

Cooking:

Every year, one out of eight homes will have a cooking fire. In the majority of these cases, a hot stovetop burner under a pan of grease is the culprit.  When a pan of oil catches fire, handling it correctly by covering the pan with the lid will smother the fire. Trying to carry it outside can cause the grease to spill and burn the entire house down. Never throw water on a grease fire.

Wiring:

Home wiring can become outdated. It used to be that the average American family only had to worry about two or three television sets. But an increase in the utilization of electronics in the typical home has risen drastically. Couple that with the fact that many people now spend a greater number of hours away from home, and the potential for disaster is magnified.

Many homeowners overload the home’s wiring or use it improperly, which in turn can create a circuit overload. If the connectors are worn from overuse, this could also cause a fire.

Faulty wiring causes fires.

Faulty wiring causes fires.

Outlets and Switches:

Faulty electrical outlets and switches should be replaced before they can turn into a fire hazard. Some older homes have two-prong outlets. A fire can start if the homeowner is using a three prong plug in one of these two-prong outlets without properly grounding it first. It's better to just get them replaced.

Extension cords:

Extension cords, particularly frayed or worn extension cords run under rugs are another source of danger.  Extension cords are only meant to be used as a temporary measure.

Oversized light bulbs:

All lamps and light switches are designed to use up to a certain wattage.  Using a higher number of watts than the light is rated to handle is a dangerous practice.

Space heaters:

Space heaters have become popular in situations where warmth is required in a small area for a set amount of time. Therein lies the problem: many areas are too confined for a space heater. Curtains, bedding, clothing, and upholstery can burst into flames by being ignited by a too-close space heater.

Other heating devices to watch out for are heat lamps, hot water heaters, and dryers.

Other appliance advice:

Too old:

It's easy to allow appliances, but especially heating devices, to get too old or worn out. Just cast an eye on Mr. Old Electric Blanket, and his little cousin, Master Heating Pad.

Too close to wood:

Heating appliances such as toasters and toaster ovens should not be operated under low-hanging wood cabinets or close to overhanging items of any type. 

Using electricity safely can bring joy and comfort into people's lives. It's a wise practice to keep a sharp eye and nose out for anything that might pose a hazard. If an appliance has a frayed cord, or if it shows sign of melting, causes a circuit breaker to blow continuously, or smells like it’s melting or burning, replace it.

 If a house catches on fire, the occupants should never stop to try and save important documents, family heirlooms, or treasured possessions. The American Red Cross says that a family may have less than two minutes to evacuate their home in the event of a fire.  The most valuable thing in a home is you and your family. Get out safely.

Tips for Holiday Giving to Aid Victims of Disaster

 Because of our business, we have seen the suffering people endure after disasters firsthand. We also know that most of our customers are especially sensitive to the suffering of others because they, themselves, have suffered through a disaster. Giving to others after a disaster is a great way to feel useful and less helpless when you see the images on TV.

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As the season of giving is upon us, we turn our attention to look over the means and methods of disaster donating and how to make the best impact possible.

FEMA cautions that sending or donating used clothing is rarely useful and creates havoc when those on location are forced to deal with it. Shoes, blankets, toys, medicines, pet supplies, mixed boxes, food, water, and unsolicited (untrained) help create serious coping struggles in communities which are already badly compromised. (Exceptions to this are local shelters, which communicate exactly what they need in the way of physical items if you call or visit their website. Also, local families in need can be helped with physical items.)

So, what is left? Money.

The value of your money is twofold: first, it allows charities to prepare for disasters in an organized and educated way. Supplies can be purchased in bulk before they are needed. Money can be used to provide immediate relief by organizations at the front lines. Second, it allows you to take an income tax deduction. If you do make a donation to a charity expecting to take the tax deduction, make absolutely sure it’s a tax deductible donation. Some ‘charities’ don’t qualify. 

The next question is, who will you choose to get your money?

First, you have to decide where your heart lies. Whether you’re passionate about pets or vets, if there is a local charity, donations at the local level offer the biggest bang for the buck. For example, if your passion is fighting poverty, you can donate to Salvation Army, and that money stays in the community where you gave the donation. If you donate to your local Red Cross, that money stays in your community (If that money is filtered through Red Cross International, they keep a hefty percentage of it, which is okay if that is what you want.) 

One important thing is not to fall prey to misleading emails which claim to provide accurate data on charities or their CEO’s. Do your own research! Charity Watch and Charity Navigator provide some excellent tools. Researching a charity only takes just a few minutes.

Some of the highlights of a solid charity are their transparency and a positive history with good leadership. The wording of the claims on how much of your donation goes toward victims can be tricky. You can read more about that here

Another thing to watch out for is gifts and high pressure or repeat calls. Sometimes callers are outright scammers. Also, people who call on behalf of charities are sometimes paid telemarketers who make more than the actual charity. So if you want to give to the charity, hang up the phone and give directly through their official website or headquarters. This also saves you from another pitfall: giving your credit card number or bank account number over the phone. Tip: Ask the charity not to share your information with other charities, or before you know it your mailbox will be full of charity solicitations. 

Donating is an exciting way to give back to your community and your world. A couple of minutes of your time can turn you into an educated philanthropist and you can do your small part to help make the world a better place. 

Happy holidays, everybody!