Image of electrical wires
GuideOne Risk Resources for Health Care
1111 Ashworth Road
W. Des Moines, IA 50265-3538



Preventing Electrical Fires

Electrical systems have always been a common cause for building fires. The data gathered by GuideOne Insurance shows that damage caused by electrical fires this year has been five times greater than at this point last year. This is an alarming trend. Let's explore areas of focus that can significantly reduce the likelihood of a devastating electrical fire to your facility.

Look, Listen and Smell

There are often early warning signs that an electrical fire is lurking. Ask yourself the following questions as you walk through your facility:

  1. Is the electrical system in your facility more than 30 years old?

  2. Are there extension cords being used to power appliances or lights?

  3. Are multi-plug adapters or power strips used to plug in multiple appliances or devices?

  4. Are there any exposed electric wires, exposed wire nuts or missing covers?

  5. Is there water in, around or coming out of electric boxes, conduit or components?

  6. Are there any signs (sight, sound or smell) of rodents, bats, birds or other pests?

  7. Have you experienced blown fuses or tripped breakers?

  8. Have you noticed flickering lights?

  9. Have you noticed any unusual smells (burning plastic or any smell coming from electric equipment or appliances)?

  10. Have you heard any popping or arcing sound when lights or appliances turn on and off?

  11. Are any cords, equipment or appliances warm to the touch?

  12. Has anyone experienced minor electric shock from touching any cords, equipment or appliances?

If you answer "yes" to any of the questions above, investigate further and consult with a licensed electrical contractor as needed. For more information, please refer to the Electrical Self-Assessment Survey.

Electrical Preventive Maintenance Program

It is recommended that at least once every three years, preventive maintenance is conducted on your electrical equipment by a licensed electrical contractor. By implementing a preventive maintenance program for your electrical system, your chances of an electrical failure and fire are greatly reduced. For more information, please read the Preventing Costly Electrical System Problems fact sheet detailing an Electrical Preventive Maintenance program.

Install Surge Protection

In conjunction with your electrical grounding system, the best means of protecting your electrical equipment from transient voltage is to install surge protection devices (SPDs) throughout your facility. For more information, please read the Protecting Your Facility from Electrical Surge Damage Fact Sheet.

Infrared Thermography

Infrared cameras, which are sensitive to thermal radiation, can detect and measure the temperature differences between surfaces. Abnormal temperature differences indicate a problem that could lead to a breakdown or failure, or cause a fire. For more information, please read the Infrared Thermography Fact Sheet.

Regardless of the cause, fires can be catastrophic and devastate your operation. Taking important preventive measures now can significantly reduce the likelihood of electrical fires and provide safety from the effects of fire and smoke to your residents/tenants, visitors and staff.

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