Prevent electrical fires

Electrical fires in the home kill nearly 500 people every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

These kinds of fires spread quickly as the electricity arcs through wires throughout the home and fries equipment, appliances and other devices in the household.

Wiring and “related equipment” start more than 60 percent of electrical home fires, the Association reports. Lighting fixtures, including lamps and bulbs, account for 20 percent. And plugs and cords are responsible for 11 percent of electrical fires.

The fire hazard often begins once the equipment wears out or is overloaded or overheated.

The best way to prevent an electrical fire: Get rid of defective wires. If you notice that a cord, wire or appliance is broken, overheating or acting inconsistently, unplug it.

If an electrical fire does start in your home, don’t throw water on it: Even during a fire, water and electricity create the danger of electrocution. Instead, douse the fire by smothering the flame with a heavy blanket or by throwing baking soda on it. Or, spray it with a Class C fire extinguisher. A tip: Class A extinguishers are water-based, so you should not use one on an electrical fire.

Finally, avoid using extension cords for prolonged use; they’re designed as a temporary way to reach a far-away outlet. Extension cords can cause people to trip over them, and when they’re hidden under a rug, they can overheat and start a fire.