May: Electrical Safety Awareness Month

Close up of electrical outlet
Close up of electrical outlet | Image by Electrical Safety Foundation/Facebook

May marks National Electrical Safety Month, providing the opportunity to raise awareness and prevent mishaps before high temperatures descend on North Texas.

The Dallas Express sat down with Cliff Walker of Willard Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, a Dallas-Fort Worth service provider, to learn some potentially life-saving electrical safety tips.

As Walker explained, May is the ideal time to take action to safeguard properties and loved ones by shoring up electrical safety. Children are out of school, the lights and appliances are turned on at home, and the heat waves are beginning to roll in — putting more and more pressure on home electrical systems.

“Little things start to add up. We’re running our cooling systems 24/7 because it never dips below 75 degrees, so this is really the time when being aware of potential hazards and taking the right precautions can really help prevent any potential problems and keep our family safe,” he said.

Every year, there are some 51,000 home fires caused by electrical incidents that could have been avoided. Not only are these incidents responsible for around 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries, but they also incur costs of around $1.3 billion in property damage.

Here is a rundown of ways Walker identified not to be part of this unfortunate yearly statistic.

Be Proactive

Walker recommended getting ahead of electrical issues by calling in the experts, such as those at Willard, for a comprehensive inspection — especially before summer gets in full swing and energy demands skyrocket.

“You know, we’ll have our guys go around the house, they’ll check out all the plugs, make sure everything is proper,” he said. “They’ll check out the electrical panel, all the breakers, and make sure that wires are installed properly and sized correctly.”

Investing in a whole home surge protector is also a key way to avoid preventable damage to electrical devices in the event of a power spike or an outage.

“This would protect everything within your home, so you’re not going to go back to a burned up computer or the fried TV,” Walker said.

To protect your comfort, he suggested a whole home generator, which is oftentimes gas-powered and kicks on about six to 10 seconds after the power goes out.

Keep Electrical Cords Far From Water

While it might seem like a no-brainer, Walker thought it worth repeating that electricity and water do not mix. This means keeping electrical equipment away from kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, bathtubs, and showers.

Yet Walker stressed the importance of identifying less obvious sources of water in the home and keeping electrical cords away from these as well.

“If you have home aquariums, it’s something to think about. If you have potted plants, especially some of those fancy ones that automatically water them for you, it’s another thing to think about,” he advised.

Child- and Pet-Proof Outlets and Cords

Installing covers is a surefire way to child- and pet-proof outlets.

“There’s some really great spring-loaded covers that you can find. A lot of folks will see them outside because they keep water out, but there’s also some indoor versions that just automatically shut off the access to the internal portion of the plug when something’s not plugged into the outlet. So, I like those a lot,” Walker told DX.

To prevent children and pets from falling over or getting into electrical cords, Walker recommended keeping them neatly organized.

“The more cords you have out there, the easier it is for any of your pets [or children] to trip over them,” he added.

Walker also stressed the importance of educating young kids about electrical safety, notably that “it can be dangerous if we don’t respect it.”

“We don’t play with electrical outlets. We don’t treat electrical extension cords like jump ropes,” he added.

Pets, of course, aren’t as receptive to electrical safety lessons, so Walker suggests buying a spray deterrent for cords to keep them from being chewed.

Avoid Overloading Outlets

Noting that this is his pet peeve, Walker urged against overloading outlets with extenders, which puts too much stress on the system.

“I imagine like the kitchen counter that has multiple appliances and there’s only one outlet with two plug spots in it. And so somebody grabs a plug extender so they can turn two into six, and then they’ve got a toaster oven, coffee maker, a second toaster oven, and air fryer … It’s really not a good practice for for keeping things safe at home,” he said.

While a surge protector would prove beneficial, Walker said the best solution would be to install additional outlets where you need them — if the breaker supports it.

“[They could] provide you a whole lot more options that are safer and then you don’t have to worry about that mess. You don’t have to worry about the outlet extenders or the risk you’re taking,” he said.

Know When to Call in an Expert

Walker recommended that DIYers defer to a licensed electrician for any task requiring them to go behind the walls. Some signs that a serious problem is brewing and needs professional attention include outlets overheating or breakers constantly tripping.

“Unlike painting or maybe landscaping or things that you can do around your house that are really DIY, when it comes to electrical projects, it is best to go ahead and call the professionals,” he said.

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