Electrical fires: Don't do this at home!

Mon 9 Nov, 2015

This picture of a dangerously overloaded 13-amp wall socket was not posed - it was taken with the owner's permission while Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service was carrying out a safety visit in someone's home. 

If what you can see wasn’t already enough of a fire hazard, the plugs and adaptors had been covered with a bean bag to make the room look tidier, and there were no smoke alarms in the home.

Firefighters are encouraging people to treat electricity with care as part of their contribution to Electrical Fire Safety Week, a national campaign which runs from today until Sunday 15 November.

Group Commander Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “In recent years, the average household has acquired an increasing number of items that need to be charged. 

“Because this puts pressure on the availability of electrical sockets, a lot of people are using adaptors – and some are plugging far too many things into them.

“Just because an adaptor has room for four plugs, it does not necessarily mean you can run four things off it.”

High-current appliances include kettles, hairdryers, irons, dishwashers and heaters. Low-current appliances include televisions, computers, hi-fis and radios.

To avoid the risk of overheating and possibly fire, an extension lead or socket should never have appliances that together use more than 13 amps or 3,000 watts of energy plugged into it.

Click here for an easy-to-use online overload calculator, devised by the charity Electrical Safety First, which shows you how to avoid overloading your sockets.

Richard offered the following additional safety tips:

  • Don’t leave phones and other items charging for long periods of time, and don’t charge them overnight or while you are out.
  • Look out for the CE mark that indicates chargers comply with European Safety standards. 
  • Though it’s usually cheaper to buy imported, unofficial chargers, they are often made with poor quality components that fail to meet UK safety regulations. This means they can cause injury, electric shocks and fires.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully and pay close attention to any warnings supplied with the product.
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order, and unplug them when not in use, unless they are designed to be left on.
  • Keep heaters away from curtains and furniture.
  • Be extra careful with cooking equipment in the kitchen.
  • To help keep you and your family safe from fire, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service provides free home safety checks, with free smoke alarms fitted where needed. Ring 01296 744477 or email cs@bucksfire.gov.uk to book one.