As we all know, electricity is a good servant but a real bad master. While it can be used to provide comfort in various ways (light, heat, cooking, transport, communications, etc.), any slight misuse or carelessness is likely to cause a shock or a fire, both of which can result in serious injury or even death. While life without electricity is unthinkable, its improper use could even make you loose your life.
With higher standards of living and the availability of an ever increasing number of electrical appliances that make life more comfortable, it is very likely that many households will connect more items to their electric outlets than they had envisaged at the time of the initial laying of electric wires in the house. Overloading an electric circuit is one of the major fire hazards.
Poor quality fixtures, improper maintenance and repairs can lead to electric shocks. Hence, it is prudent to put in extra-thick wire for the anticipated loads right at the beginning instead of having to suffer fires caused by short-circuiting, blown fuses, or undertaking costly wire replacements.
Automatic circuit breakers are better than wire fuses whose effectiveness can all too easily be annulled by using a thicker wire than necessary for the specific amperage/load.
The box containing electrical cutouts and fuses should be easily approachable. It should not be locked. All mature members of the family should know how to use the fuse-box and what to do in times of emergency.
Label all the fuses and circuit breakers so that the room or appliance to which each is connected is easily identifiable.
This comes in handy during an emergency. Do not rely on your memory.
There should be a main switch for each room so that it can be used in case of an emergency. Having to run to the main switch for the entire house, which may be located on a floor other than the one where the emergency has arisen, could be difficult. This could have a fatal effect because in electrical emergencies even seconds count.
Do not play with electric switches. Some of the poorer quality ones may become loose or get broken, and when used give a shock. Any cracked, broken, or exposed switch, plug, or socket must be replaced right away.
On all electric appliances, 3-wire plugs should be used. The electrical ground or earth should be a definite one and not a superfluous one. With sophisticated and costly electronic items and personal computers, etc. being used these days, the need for proper earthing has become more important.
Any extension cord used should be quite capable of taking the current it is supposed to carry. It should not dangle or be left to run on the ground. Wires left like this can be hazardous to small children, elderly people, or those with poor sight. They may trip and fall. Therefore, the choice of an electric cord, and its proper installation are very important.
Do not use an extension cord permanently. Get a regular line laid, or change the location of the fixture, so that an extension cord is not necessary.
The cord should not lie over wet or hot surface. Nor should electrical wires lie under mats, carpets, or in the doorways where they are likely to get crushed and their insulation cracked, leading to short-circuit fires and electrical shock.
Sometimes, at public and family functions, there are several electric cords connected to microphones, video cameras, audio cassette recorders, projectors, lights, etc. that trail on the floor. The users of these equipment generally move around with the cords in tow. This can cause an unexpected nasty fall.
Temporary lighting is used for marriages, religious functions, large meetings, etc. One should not string bare wires or wires with cracked insulation on tree tops as live wires can cause fires and electrical breakdowns, short circuits, electrocution, etc. Ensure use of properly insulated and standard wire and hang it very carefully.
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES : A MODERN BOON ?
The instruction booklets for operation and maintenance of electrical as well as other appliances should be readily available in case the need arises, or if spare parts have to be ordered. The following precautions are a must too.
Every time you clean or empty a blender, mixer, grinder, toaster, power-lawn mower, etc. switch it off and pull the cord out of the power socket so that it is no longer connected to the power supply. This is to ensure that no one knowingly or unknowingly turns the power on while you are cleaning it.
Before using any electrical appliance, or turning the switches on and off, make sure that your hands are dry. Remember, water is an excellent conductor of electricity.
Connect only one appliance to one socket. This will ensure that when one appliance is switched on, another does not get switched on at the same time. Also the current drawn will be within limits and no excessive heat will be produced which could melt the wire insulation or cause a fire.
Always use a plug, and not bare wire ends in a socket. The bare wire could become loose and give a shock, or it could cause sparking and fire.
Keep water (and any dampness) away from all electrical fixtures. Do not use any appliance with wet hands or while standing on a wet floor.
Check the wattage of all bulbs in your light sockets, specially those in lamps and recessed ceiling fixtures which trap heat. High wattage bulbs may result in a fire.
Do not use any appliance that gives even the slightest shock. Get it repaired and tested by a professional. It is advisable to have an electric leak detector at home and test appliances and plugs periodically, or whenever leakage is suspected.
To prevent electrical shocks, always use insulated tools with plastic or non-metallic castings and handles.
Teach children never to put pencils, pins, fingers, pens, screwdrivers, matchsticks, toothpicks, needles, or tools of any kind into electric sockets. This can give an electric shock. When a socket is not in use put an unwired plug into it or have a spring-loaded cover to close it or tape it tighly.
Inflammable liquids, plastic, cotton, dry grass, etc. should not be stored near an electrical socket. Sparks or heat from the electrical system could ignite them.
When going on vacation, unplug the TV from the outdoor antenna as well as from the electric wall socket to prevent the possibility of fire from lightning or electric power surges.
On long vacations you may consider switching the power off from the mains itself, specially if the wiring is old. However, this may not be possible if refrigerators, electric alarms, etc. are to be left operating.
Do not place the TV or any other major electrical appliance close to a wall or near furniture. Allow sufficient space for air circulation so that the heat generated by the appliance can be dissipated.
For the same reason, do not cover the air vents in these appliances with cloth or paper or plastic when they are in use. The covering material as well as the appliance can catch fire.
Do not put any liquid or any food item on the TV. Spills can seep through the vents and cause a fire or shock as well as damage the TV.
Do not expose the TV set to rain or excessive humidity. This can lead to shock or a fire. If water does get in, have the TV examined by a repair person before using it.