Fire Prevention Safety Message
By Andrew Wells, 509 Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention inspector
/ Published April 13, 2018
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Electricity is something that we have all come to take for granted considering it is second nature for us to simply flip a light switch, charge our phones, or even use an appliance like a microwave; however, no matter how accustomed we are to using electricity as part of our daily routine there are some simple safety measures that should be followed to prevent unnecessary and unfortunate accidents.
According to the National Fire Protection Association during 2010 through 2014, there was an annual average of 45,210 reported house fires involving an electrical failure or malfunction; these responses accounted for 57 percent of all house fires and resulted in 420 civilian deaths, 1,370 injuries, and roughly $1.4 billion in damages.
Furthermore, during this period some type of electrical failure or malfunction contributed to the ignition of 16,070 structural fires in commercial or industrial facilities, resulting in an estimated annual average of 12 civilian deaths, 210 injuries, and $614 million in property damages.
More importantly, here at Whiteman there have been 41 electrical safety issues that fire inspectors have identified since the beginning of 2017 to present day.
With that in mind, here are some general guidelines that we can all follow and implement to ensure our safety when using electricity:
-Ensure high wattage appliances such as microwaves, washers, dryers, stoves, coffee pots, space heaters, and refrigerators are plugged directly into wall outlets; under no circumstances should these devices ever be plugged into surge protectors or extension cords. This was the primary electrical safety violation that fire inspectors discovered during facility inspections that occurred between 2017 and present day.
-Do not plug a surge protector or power strip into an existing surge protector or power strip; this is called "daisy chaining" or "piggybacking" and can lead to serious safety problems; this was the second most common issue fire inspectors found, and is often the result of occupants not realizing how dangerous the situation really is.
-Never use an extension cord as a substitute for permanent wiring and always ensure the extension cord is rated for the products you are plugging in to it; this was the third most common issue noted by fire inspectors.
-Only use surge protectors that have an internal circuit breaker and are either UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) approved.
-Do not place a surge protector in a location where it will be covered by carpet, furniture or any other item that would limit or prevent air circulation.
-If the surge protector is warm to the touch, remove and replace the unit; additionally the electrical load for the unit should be checked to ensure it is not overloaded.
For additional guidance regarding electrical safety you can refer to AFI 91-203 and WAFBI 32-2001. Whiteman Fire Emergency Services wants to ensure that everyone remains safe both at home and at work. If you have any questions about fire prevention, fire safety, or training please contact our Fire Prevention Office for information at 660-687-6080 or 660-687-6083.