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Electrical Safety For The Winter Season

By: Jonathan Z. Kremer

Statistically speaking, consumers seem to buy more electrical appliances during the winter than they do during the rest of the year. Appliances such as heaters, emergency lights, and electric blankets can be found on sale in many stores around the country - each store trying to entice the shoppers with special displays and offers.

Buyer Beware

When buying electrical appliances, the consumer should be very careful that they do not purchase appliances with questionable safety issues. Unfortunately, many of the products being sold are either cheap copies of brand name products, or low quality, "unknown" brands - that are here today and gone tomorrow. These "knock-off" brands use inferior materials and questionable manufacturing processes to reduce the cost of their products, allowing them to be sold at prices that cannot be matched by any quality brand manufacturer. Such products can be very dangerous to use, causing damage, injury, and even death. Following are some tips on how to avoid cheaply made and unsafe electrical products:

  1. Make it a point to purchase products from reputable stores, companies, distributors and retailers.
  2. If the bargain is too good to be true, it probably is. You could be buying a defective and unsafe product.
  3. See if the manufacturer's name and contact information can be found on the packaging. If not, consider making the purchase elsewhere or buying a different brand.
  4. Check to see if the warning label does not conflict with information elsewhere on the product or the packaging. Grammatical errors in the labeling can be a tell-tale sign of a cheaply made product.

Safety Tips for Portable Space Heaters

  1. Keep drapes, newspapers, clothing and other combustible objects a safe distance away.
  2. Plug portable space heaters directly into the outlet. Do not use extension cords or 3-in 1 adapters.
  3. Always put heaters in a place where they can't be tipped over easily. It's best to keep them on the floor where they have less of a chance of falling and becoming a potential fire or shock hazard.
  4. Do not use heaters in wet or moist areas, such as bathrooms, unless they are specifically built for that purpose. Doing so can not only corrode the heater, but can be a dangerous shock hazard.
  5. Make sure that the plug of the heater fits snugly in the outlet. A worn-out outlet can overheat, burning up both the outlet and plug. If left unnoticed, this can start a fire throughout the house.
    Note: The plug of the heater will usually get warm to the touch when the heater is in use. This is OK. Make sure that it doesn't get hot.
  6. Do not run cords under rugs or carpets. Doing so can cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
  7. Broken heaters should be checked and repaired only by a qualified appliance service center. Do not attempt to make any repairs to the heater yourself.
  8. Don't use space heaters in rooms where children are unsupervised. Children may stick their fingers or other objects through the protective guards, causing burns or shock.
  9. Turn off the space heater and unplug it when not in use.

Safety Tips for Electric Blankets and Heating Pads

  1. Electric blankets (that one covers with) and electric heating pads (that put directly on the mattress) should not be used interchangeably or at the same time.
  2. Before plugging in your electric blanket or pad, check for any damage and inspect for worn cords and other damage.
    Never get into bed with a heating pad switched on. Unplug it first otherwise it may overheat and catch fire. Likewise, never lie on top of an electric blanket when it's switched on. This could also start a fire.
  3. Electric blankets should not be tucked under the mattress and nothing should be placed on top of the blanket while it is in use (including quilts, blankets and other covers).
    Use the ties on the heating pad to secure it to the mattress. This prevents slipping and creasing which could damage the elements.
  4. Do not fold the electric blanket while it's being used. This can cause the blanket to overheat and burn out. Make sure the blanket has a mechanism to cut off the power if the blanket overheats
  5. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the electric blanket or pad. Most advise against using heating blankets on waterbeds, sofas, bunk beds, or mechanical beds.
  6. When washing the blanket, make sure it is completely dry before use. Never dry-clean an electrical blanket because the chemicals can damage the heating insulation and increase the risk of fire.

Other General Safety Tips

  1. Try to avoid using candles for lighting during a power outage. Instead use flashlights and other battery-powered lights which are not a potential fire hazard.
  2. Make sure you have a good supply of flashlights, batteries, and other such supplies in case of emergency.
  3. When the power goes out, turn off any major appliances, leaving only a light or two in the "on" position to act as a signal for when the power returns. Larger appliances left on can cause an over-load.
  4. When disconnecting an electrical cord, pull from the plug, not the cord itself.
  5. Make sure that your electrical devices are in good working order. Check for worn electric cords and broken switches. Broken or bent parts in a heater can cause fires and electrical shock.
  6. Eliminate "octopus" connections. Plugging multiple cords into a single socket can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  7. Remember than no matter how safety conscious you think you are, things can always go wrong. It is a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. A good functioning smoke alarm can dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Make sure that the batteries checked frequently. Also a class C fire extinguisher can save lives and damage. For more information on fire extinguishers click here.

For more electrical safety tips see:

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