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THE SAFETY ZONE | TODAY'S TIP

How to Take Care With Electrical Currents

November 20, 2000

Electrical systems can cause house fires. Here are the top 10 electrical safety tips from the National Safety Council:

1. Check it out. Check your home's electrical panel for a last-inspected date. If it has been more than 10 years, get a new inspection.

2. Get unplugged. Unplug heat-producing appliances when not in use. This includes irons and toasters. The National Fire Protection Assn.'s Julie Reynolds says it's OK to leave a light on for security as long as the lamp is operating properly and the bulb is the correct wattage.

3. Watch the wattage. Burning a 100-watt bulb in a lamp designed for 60 watts is a fire hazard. Most lamps have wattage instructions written along the socket.

4. Use cords with caution. Extension cords are meant for short-term use and shouldn't be used to plug more items into a single outlet. If you have cords running throughout the house, have an electrician install additional outlets.

5. Use surge protectors wherever possible.

6. Give them a test. Test ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) monthly. Turn on a night light plugged into the outlet. Press the test button. If the light turns off, the outlet is working properly. If the reset button pops out but the light stays on, the GFCI isn't working. Press the reset button to return the outlet to normal. In addition, contact a qualified, licensed electrician to determine whether your GFCI needs replacing.

7. Stay high and dry. Keep appliances away from water. Never reach into water for a plugged-in appliance. Unplug it first. Have the item inspected before using it again.

8. Screw bulbs in securely. Loose bulbs may overheat and burn shades, drapes and furniture.

9. No yanking. Unplug appliances by the finger grips next to the outlet. Yanking or tugging can damage the cord wire and insulation and could cause an electrical shock or fire, according to the National Electrical Safety Foundation.

10. Forget the pennies. Pennies may be a quick fix for blown fuses, but they could cause the electrical panel to overheat and catch fire.

More Safety Tips

Laundry/Utility Room

* Periodically vacuum your dryer's lint trap and exhaust hose. Lint buildup is a fire hazard.

* Keep a three-foot area around gas appliances, such as dryers, water heaters and furnaces, clear of any objects and clutter.

Closets

* Keep stored items a safe distance from light bulbs. Towels or wrapping paper can catch fire from a bulb that's left on.

Garage/Workshop

* Use an adapter to insert a three-prong plug into a two-hole receptacle. Replace tools without three-prong plugs or whose cords aren't double-insulated.

* Never use a power tool if the grounding pin has been removed.

Outdoors

* All outdoor sockets should have GFCIs.

* Never use an electric mower on wet grass.

* Make sure extension cords and holiday lights are intended for outdoor use.

Source: National Safety Council

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