Normally, we use our senses when we want to discern much of our surroundings. We usually know if someone is cooking when we can smell something good, and we can easily tell if there’s a gas leak if we can smell it. When it comes to maintaining much of our home, we use our sense of smell to ensure that everything is in order, even when we want to know if a certain food type is already spoiled.
As most of us know, fires can easily spread in living areas and workplaces with a variety of combustible materials. Thankfully, most of us can easily smell these types of fires, especially electrical fires, if the air circulation is just right.
Compared to other types of hazards, electrical fires are no laughing matter and are considered one of the main catalysts for fires at home. Studies have shown that around 20% of fires at home are occasionally caused by short-circuiting appliances and equipment or accidents that can lead to fires.
Compared to fires created by other causes, electrical fires are known for being subtle and harder to spot until they become life-threatening. One of the best ways of mitigating damages from electrical fires is by outright preventing it by discerning early signs. Here’s what you can keep a lookout for:
Persistent Metallic Burning Smell
First and foremost, if you smell something that’s burning with a slight tinge of metal and plastic, it might be an electrical fire.
For the untrained individual, it’s hard to locate the source of this smell. What most experts would suggest is shutting off the flow of electricity in that particular section. This will help mitigate any fire that might form.
When you’re handling electrical appliances and turning off any electrical systems in your area, you shouldn’t do this alone. If you’re not sure what you have to do, you can turn off every known electrical appliance in the area that’s connected to the electrical system until a qualified electrician with the right safety equipment and tools can solve the problem.
If the smell is strong to the point that it’s already hard to ignore, you might have to vacate the area as soon as possible. It’s important to note that under no circumstance should you use water to put out these types of fires. Water is known for being a conductor and can be a potential electrical hazard. Leave these types of scenarios for professionals.
Breaker Isn’t Working
When an electrical panel and breaker are working properly, they’re quite resistant to the effects of tripping and won’t short circuit easily. However, a breaker that trips usually trips means that it’s quite likely that it’s being caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Overloading – Trips are normally caused by circuits overloading. This is one of the main causes of overheating. The best course of action is to move your appliances towards a more optimized position to avoid placing too much strain on your electrical circuits.
- Short-circuiting – There’s bound to be at least one appliance or circuit that’s already short-circuiting. When this happens, a hot wire is touching a neutral wire, which can increase the chances of getting a circuit that will overload from faulty wiring. Not only will this cause fires, but this can also lead to accidental electrocutions if people are not too careful.
- Ground faults – This usually occurs when most hot wires touch copper wires attached to surfaces that can easily conduct electricity. Normally, this occurs when the humidity is higher in areas like the kitchen and restrooms. It’s important to note that this can often lead to serious injuries and even life-threatening, in certain cases. Most homeowners and businesses will have ground fault interrupters to ensure that this does not happen in busy areas.
Discolored and Charged Switches and Outlets
Have you ever seen an electric panel from an old building? If you’ve noticed how most outlets usually stop working, it’s because they are charred (much like there was a spark or a fire) around the receiving area. Most of the time, these switches and outlets won’t work anymore. If they do work, they are already fire hazards, and it’s best to use one that isn’t charred.
Most of the time, this discoloration is caused by electrical sparks and is one of the earliest signs of an electrical fire. Although most untrained individuals can still troubleshoot such devices, it’s still important to consult first with a professional before making any decision.
There are a variety of ways of determining if there’s an electrical fire in your area. The best way of discerning if there are fire hazards is with our sense of smell. Although there are already early signs even before a fire does happen. Ultimately, investing in safe emergency equipment can help ensure that this does not happen. Preventing disasters is better than having to call for emergency services and having to spend thousands on repairs.