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When CO2 Fire Extinguishers Are Not Enough: Avoiding Electrical Fires

Jul 16, 2008
In the age of electricity, it's rare to see a building that doesn't have a CO2 extinguisher as a standard piece of fire safety equipment. Electrical fires are one of the common hazards we have to accept as modern people living with modern conveniences. But there's no reason to wait for an electrical fire to start before you learn how to handle one. The simplest way to avoid electrical fires, and to save you and your property, is to embrace prevention.

Overloaded circuits are one of the most common causes of electrical fires, and becoming more common every year. It seems like a good sense issue not to overload a plug, but think about this common middle-class living room. Plugged into a wall are: two lamps, a television set, a cable box, a video game console or two, a DVD player, and a stereo. That's quite a few plugs, and the temptation is always to cram them into one or two simple multi-plug outlets. Resist that temptation. If you must have everything plugged in at once, use a high-rated surge protector. A much better option is simply to make do with less electrical components in one space, many sages say, after all, that the simple life is the superior life. From a fire safety perspective, that's certainly true.

Water seems like the natural antidote to fire, except where electrical fires are concerned. A single spilled glass of iced coffee, for example, can render a perfectly-working laptop into a useless yet expensive paperweight in a matter of seconds. Worse, the short circuits created by water damage can throw off serious sparks that can in turn cause other serious fire damage.

What's the solution? If you don't feel you can trust yourself and liquids around a computer or other high-end electrical device (stereos, kitchen equipment), it's a good idea to maintain a policy of distance. Keep at least five feet away from all electrical devices at all times when you have a glass of water in your hand and you should be fine.

And the single most important method for dealing with electrical fires: have the right tools on hand to cope with electrical fires when they do come up. A good smoke detector will warn you of electrical fires after they start. A CO2 extinguisher is the safest way to fight the actual blaze. And a good cell or land-line phone with quick, ideally one-touch access to the fire department is essential. Electrical fires often take place in the walls, after all, someplace that you don't have ready access to. So stay alert for warning signs from smoke, avoid carrying liquids around electrical objects, don't overload your plugs, and if the worst happens, don't be afraid to make the call. Prevention, after all, can only take you so far.
About the Author
See the complete range of CO2 fire extinguishers with specifications, fire ratings and accessories at www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk
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