Guest post by Brett Brenner, President, Electrical Safety Foundation International
Parents and other elderly loved ones increasingly rely on their children and other caregivers for support as they age. Financial and medical issues are common concerns. However, fire prevention and other hazards often associated with electrical items around the home are often overlooked.
Adults over the age of 65 are at the greatest risk of death from fire and this risk continues to increase with age according to the National Fire Protection Association.
I encourage you to check the homes of your elderly loved ones and those in your care for electrical safety issues and urge them to follow these important safety precautions:
- Check cords, outlets, switches and appliances for signs of damage. Do not use electrical devices that have exposed wiring, signs of burn near plugs, or other indications of damage.
- Look and listen for warning signs of an electrical problem. Contact a licensed electrician if you observe problems with outlets or switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling, or buzzing noises, or if you see flickering or dimming lights.
- Never run electrical cords under rugs or carpets. They could pose a dangerous tripping hazard.
- Use extension cords on a temporary basis. Do not use extension cords permanently and never use them with major appliances.
- Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where electricity is near a water source, such as in the kitchen and bathroom. GFCIs are electrical safety devices that prevent deadly shocks by quickly shutting off power to a circuit if the electricity flowing into the circuit differs even slightly from the amount returning.
- Consider having circuit breakers replaced with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). AFCIs provide enhanced electrical fire protection by detecting dangerous arcing conditions, which are caused by damaged, overheated or stressed electrical wiring or devices.
- Test home-safety devices monthly. Use the “test” buttons to check that GFCIs, AFCIs and smoke alarms are working properly.
For more resources and tips to keep your loved ones safe, visit the resources for older adults section [11/9/2017: Updated links on page except for this one, which is no longer available.] on the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) website. Among its online resources, ESFI provides a home fire safety checklist for older adults, which includes valuable information on smoke alarm maintenance, fire escape planning, electrical panels and heating equipment.
Brett Brenner is president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). ESFI sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school and play. ESFI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety.