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Family, Child and Pet Electrical Safety

We know that your home and your family will likely be the most important thing in your life, and protecting that will be something you want to do. So, what happens if there is a fire… would you know what to do? Or how you could have prevented it in the first place?

Your home is a valuable asset and something you wouldn’t want to lose, but is that more important that your loved ones? In the event of a fire, even though you would not want to lose your house, I’m sure most would prefer that than a child, or a loved pet, and in some cases even more than the family photos. As long as you have insurance, things can be replaced – but irreplaceable items cannot be. No matter how much compensation you receive, they will never be returned to you. This is why it is important to prevent this in the first place.

The first things would be to make sure your house is safe. One of the first things you can do is to just look out for danger signs of faulty or dangerous electrical appliances. You can check for damaged plugs, sockets and flexible cables as these are more likely to cause electric shock, burns and fires. To check for damaged plugs is actually quite simple and doesn’t always require opening them up to make sure everything is alright. If the plug and socket present any burn marks, sounds of ‘arching’ (such as buzzing or crackling), fuses blowing, circuit breakers tripping, or if they feel hot are all signs of damaged plugs or sockets, so check for these regularly so you can spot them early. Always make sure you are using appliances with the British Standard safety mark, and always replaced damaged cables immediately. A way to prevent damaging your plugs in the first place is to always remove them from the socket carefully, as pulling plugs out by the cable puts strain on them and might damage the contact between the socket and the plug which could lead to overheating, wires becoming loose or electric shock.

If you have old wiring, it may also be time to get it checked over by a registered electrician, as faulty and ageing wiring is one of the major causes of electrical fires in the home. You will be able to see the age on an electrical appliance by some features they present, such as cables coated in black rubber, lead or fabric, a fuse box with a wooden back, older round pin sockets and wall-mounter light switch in the bathroom – these were all faded out during or before the 1960’s.

Quick tips: unplug any plugs before doing any maintenance on them, and make sure you switch off the socket before you unplug it! Never drill or fix nails in the wall without knowing what’s behind them – in newer houses, this normally means not to drill directly above or below a wall socket, however, if you are unsure, do not attempt it without getting it checked by a registered electrician first. Another tip is to never dry clothes over an electric heater. These electric heaters have vents specifically designed to stop them overheating – if these are covered, it can lead to the heater catching fire from overheating. Another danger is if water drips inside the heater on to live parts, leading to electric shock or fire. Never trail wires under carpets or rugs as these wires build up heat from use, and if they are under a carpet or rug could overheat and catch fire.

You should always be aware of where your fuse box is, as this is where you will be able to turn off the supply to your electrical installation. In the event of an emergency, you will need to turn off your electricity quick. The main switch inside your fuse box lets you do this, so knowing where it is located is extremely important. It is also a good idea to look into fixed RCDs (Residual Current Device). These are devices that switch off the electricity automatically if there is a fault. These can be fitted into your fuse box or consumer unit (fixed RCD), they can be found in special socket-outlets (socket-outlet RCD), or can be plugged into a standard socket where another appliance can be plugged into that (portable RCD).

Another safety tip is to avoid using extension leads as a permanent solution. If you find yourself using extension leads all the time in a certain room of your house, getting more sockets fitted by a registered electrician might be a safer option. Although it may cost most than paying for a simple extension lead, extension leads are much more dangerous as they are more likely to overload, overheat and then catch fire. To learn more about overloading sockets, please read our post specifically focused on this topic.

Many of the safety precautions you should take to keep your children and pets safe are the same. These include:

  • Make sure that your sockets are not overloaded as these can overheat and catch fire.
  • Never leave large appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers or tumble dryers running whilst you are out or asleep.
  • Don’t leave portable heaters unattended with pets and children running around the house.
  • Don’t store anything that could easily catch fire on top of the microwave or near the fuse box.
  • Check that plugs, sockets, lights and cables are not displaying burn marks or damaged in any way.
  • Keep appliance cords out of the reach of children and pets, especially when they are attached to hot appliances such as kettles, iron or hair straighteners.
  • Remember to switch off appliances when they are not in use.

Safety tips that apply to pets more than children include:

  • Don’t plug a mobile phone into a charger and forget about it.
  • Don’t leave any cables trailing, they are not only a trip hazard but pets may find they look too appetising.

Safety tips that apply to children more than pets include:

  • Keep drinks away from TVs, DVD players, games consoles, computers, laptops or other similar electrical appliances.
  • Never leave an unconnected appliance cord plugged in and switched on, such as a phone charger, as children may be tempted to put it in their mouths.
  • To keep children safe when touching something like a live wire, an RCD would be beneficial (any of the three RCD types mentioned above will be suitable).
  • After a bath or shower, make sure before your children touch any electrical appliances, they are dried off thoroughly – the same goes for letting children run straight inside from the paddling pool. Water and electricity do not go well together!
  • Don’t rely on socket blanking plugs, as regular sockets are generally safe. If there is a fault with the installation, a socket cover will not protect your child from an electric shock.

If you would like any more advice on making sure your house is safe from electrical faults and fires, please contact Mr. Electric Bournemouth on 01202 468789, and let one of our registered electricians put your mind at ease about any worries or issues you may have.