Electrical fires account for a high percentage of house fires, however, the good news is that they are easy to prevent if you’re aware of the dangers. Remember that just because appliances are working doesn’t mean they are safe. Read on to find out how to avoid fires and explosions caused by non-compliant electrical devices and devices used unsafely.
Buying electrical devices
Electrical Products including USB Chargers, Powerbanks and Light Decorations sold in Australia and New Zealand must have a compliance label showing the product complies with the electrical regulator and Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) regulations.
Unfortunately, many electrical products do not comply and are still sold in Australia and New Zealand, increasing the chances of a product overheating or exploding causing a fire hazard.
Before buying an item like a USB charger, travel adaptor or power supply, check that it has a Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) or an approval number on the product first. The RCM looks like this:
In addition, any products you buy must have insulated pins of the correct configuration and there must not be holes in the pins.
This is what compliant chargers and adapters look like:
Here are some non-compliant products:
Other ways to be safe with electricity at home
Watch out for faulty outlets. If cords are difficult to plug in or won’t stay put, the wires in your sockets may be loose and need replacing. Old appliances may also be short of today’s standards of wattage usage, material quality, and safety regulations. Check with an electrician If you are unsure.
If your home is over 20 years old, your wiring system may not cope with our device-heavy lifestyles, including air conditioners and induction cooktops. Consider upgrading your system to accommodate these high-powered appliances.
Watch out for extension cords being used to charge extra appliances and Christmas tree lights in the holiday season. If they are plugged into a single extension cord, for example, the circuit might overload and cause a fire. Choose heavy-duty extension cords for temporary use only and plug larger appliances into the wall.
Installing a light bulb with a higher wattage than what is required is a common cause of house fires. Always check the maximum recommended wattage and plug lamps into a power socket, not an extension cord.
Never piggyback power boards, i.e plug one adapter into another adapter. While most compliant modern power boards and double-adaptors have inbuilt circuit breakers, the warranty on them often states that these may not function as expected when another adaptor is plugged into it.
Have safety switches installed at your meter box. A safety switch is a device that quickly switches off the electricity supply if an electrical fault is detected, to minimise the risk of electricity-related fires, electric shock, injury and death.
Look out for water leaks. Water conducts electricity, so if water leaks into the light or power circuits in your home, a fault may develop, which could result in a fire or electric shock.
In the event of electric shock
If you go to help someone who’s receiving an electric shock, turn off the power at the main switch first. If the current can't be turned off, use a non-conducting object, such as a broom, chair, rug or rubber doormat to push the person away from the source of the current.
If possible, stand on something dry that doesn't conduct electricity, such as a rubber mat or folded newspapers.
Call 000 for emergency assistance and stay with the person until help arrives.
In the event of an electrical fire
Turn off electricity at the mains and use a portable fire extinguisher if possible to put out the fire. Never use water on an electrical fire. If anyone is in danger, call 000 immediately.
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Information sourced from: EESS.gov.au, Energy Australia, Fire and Rescue NSW, SA Govt.
Image credit: Stockarch
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.