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Electricity and Home Safety -- We Love it, But it Packs a Wallop of Power. Love it Like a Wild Animal

Updated on July 22, 2015
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Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

My column Home Safety First with Enrich Magazine
My column Home Safety First with Enrich Magazine | Source

Fires Caused by Electricity Still Happen in the Philippines

Twenty years ago my next door neighbors, an elderly couple, locked up their house and went out to have lunch with friends. Shortly after they left smoke emanated from the rooftop of their home.

A neighbor called the fire department and others parked their cars a distance away. A group of us hovered about until the firemen came. The house was kindled in smoke and flames.

When the couple came home nothing was whole. I approached the old woman to comfort her. She told me, “I don’t know what the lesson is from God.”

The firemen blamed the fire on faulty electrical wiring. A line was overloaded and had short circuited. Electricity is invisible but when it causes trouble, it hits you big time.

On Feb. 28 last year, in the Molo District of Iloilo, 10 houses were burned to the ground and three others were damaged due to frayed, 30-year-old electrical wires, a shoddy, overloaded extension wire and the use of multiple appliances on the extension cord. The resulting short circuit cost P1.3 million in damages.

My byline
My byline | Source

Blueprint

If you plan to buy an old or a renovated home, ask the seller for a blueprint of the house. A blueprint will show you where your electrical wires travel, starting from the electric post outside, through the walls of your house towards the various electrical outlets where you plug your appliances, and the electrical box where they all converge. In some houses, they don’t just end there. From the electrical box there is a pathway below the ground where the current travels.

A blueprint will not only show you the pathway of your electric wires, but also the pathway of your pipes. When you drill a nail into your wall to hang a picture, you can consult your blueprint to make sure you don’t end up hitting a pipe and causing a leak, because electricity and water result in electrical shock.

A worse possibility is that you may drill a nail into a live cable, resulting in voltaic shock, burns, or fire.

On the upside, usually electric cables travel near the windows and along areas of a wall where you are not likely to drill a nail in. But there are always exceptions.

My bio
My bio | Source

Ways to Get a Blueprint

A blueprint of your house provides a lot of information that you will need to know in the long term. Aside from the layout of your electric cables and water pipes, it will also tell you whether your home has cross sections, details on your building materials and what kind of foundation you have. All of this information will be very useful when your house ages over time and develops cracks, water damage and the like. It is also useful if you plan to renovate your house or make additions to it.

If you don’t have a blueprint to your house, There are some ways that you can try to get it. You can:

  1. Find the original contractor of the house. Ask the former home owner. Even if you are the third home owner, the second home owner may have the blueprint or have information that can lead you to the first owner or the original contractor. Once you find the contractor, you can ask him if he has copies of the blueprint, or if he can recommend someone who can help you.
  2. If you have access to the first owner of the house, chances are the house was built on a loan, and the lender may have a copy of the blueprint on file.
  3. If you purchased a prefabricated home, the company that built it is likely to have the blueprint, as it usually reuses the same blueprint to build hundreds of houses like yours.
  4. Sometimes a contractor will build several homes in one neighborhood using the same blueprint. If you see a house that looks exactly like yours in your neighborhood, you can ask the homeowner if he or she has a blueprint, or if the homeowner knows the contractor.
  5. If all else fails, you can hire an architectural expert to reproduce your blueprints. This is expensive, but it may be worth it if you think it is an important part of your home’s structural integrity and the safety of you and your loved ones.

The cost to health can be heavy when you experience damage from electricity. A small electric shock is something you can easily recover from. Superficial burns will also heal. But deep burns heal poorly and leave scars behind, or in severe cases, cause death.

Be vigilant about the upkeep of your home, and in particular, pay close attention to your electrical outlets, switches and wires. In this way you can enjoy all the benefits of electricity without fear of accidents and confidence that your home is safe and truly a bulwark of protection for your loved ones.

Safety measures to prevent hazards from electricity

If you don’t have a blueprint of your house, you can still do some things to keep your house as safe as possible. They are:

  1. Check your adaptors, outlets and switches. Look for burn marks and signs of melting. Check their overall condition, and if anything is in poor shape, change it.
  2. Check your electric box. Most new houses today have circuit breakers for added protection. However, you should check your electric box every now and then. If you have a digital volt meter, you can use it to check your breakers. Otherwise you can look for red flags like a buzzing sound, burn marks on outlets and switches, fuses and breakers that tend to stop abruptly, lights that flicker, the smell of burning, or an outlet or switch that gives you a little shock whenever you touch it or plug something into it. Should any of these signs be present, have a registered electrician check it out.
  3. Check your gas supply hose. In May last year a condominium unit in posh Two Serendra, The Fort, lost one entire wall in a sudden blast. The wall flew across the street and landed on a van on the road. The blast was blamed on several factors, including a detached gas supply hose (caused when the gas range changed locations), which led to the accumulation of gas leaking into the unit. It took a light switch to trigger the blast.

When you check your gas hose make sure your hose is securely attached. Check for loose clamps, and if you find any, secure them well. Many Filipino homes attach an LPG tank directly to a two-burner gas range. For added safety, turn off the gas tank completely every night.

  1. Don’t overload outlets. Extension cords with three or four added outlets are convenient, but if you are using four appliances at once, you may overload the outlet on the wall. Ideally, you should have one socket for each appliance that is used simultaneously.
  2. Light fittings. A light fitting is the part of the light which attaches to the wall. To prevent a melted, disfigured lamp shade, or worse, a fire, make sure that your bulb’s wattage does not exceed the allowable wattage of your light fitting. You will know the allowable wattage from your blueprint. But if you don’t have one, choose a bulb with the least wattage that can help you function well at night. A low wattage bulb also will save you money on your electric bill.
  3. Insulation. Always make sure that your cables are well insulated to avoid fire from overheating. If you have a damaged cable, change it.
  4. Ventilation holes. Many electrical appliances have ventilation holes to prevent overheating, so don’t cover them. Even your computer monitor has ventilation holes in the back that should never be covered.
  5. Pull your plugs with care. If you have a socket switch, turn it off. Then, grip the plug and gently pull it out. Don’t tug at the cable as this may ruin the wires.

Magazine Cover

Cover of the issue where this column was featured
Cover of the issue where this column was featured | Source

Date of Issue

Date of issue
Date of issue | Source

Electric safety tips

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    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 22 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Teacher, yes, unfortunately electricity packs a strong punch if it is not properly controlled, and of course, a circuit breaker would be the best thing ever. That fire of my neighbors happened over a decade ago, but they did manage to make a nice, small house in the garage where they stayed until they died. They were an old couple. I remember being there when the couple came home, they just had this amazing resilience and acceptance but great sadness. The fire department isn't always honest, and even their safe was broken and all the money and valuables taken. Well, this is the Philippines, lumps and all.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 22 months ago

      So sorry to hear of your neighbors's fire, so unforeseen! Your tips are wonderful and I hope they help others prevent future disaster.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 23 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Flourish Anyway, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandparents' home. It must have been traumatic at the time. Yes, a blueprint is always a good idea. Take care, and may all of you stay safe.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

      Good tips on locating that blueprint, Mona. My parents' home burned due to faulty wiring in the ceiling of the garage just after I graduated college. For weeks or months prior to the fire, the electric sockets in an adjoining bedroom (mine) did not properly function, so they had an electrician examine it. He gave the house a clean bill of health but made a mistake, obviously.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 23 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Quildon, thank you very much. Speaking of Christmas lights, we purposely minimize ours. A lot of wealthy families use Christmas lights to the max and their homes burn down. The worst was the case of a government official, who, aside from the normal Christmas lights, had three Christmas trees lit. One of them on the second floor of the house immediately caught fire, as the tree was plastic. A 16-year-old girl died in that fire. They were so concerned with safety even the windows were bullet proof so it was impossible to save her. She was in the bathroom calling everyone, but it was just impossible and she died. Truly, money is not everything. That was many years ago, and these people were good people, but it was such a terrible tragedy.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 23 months ago from Florida

      Great information, Mona! Like someone said, we tend to take electricity for granted. I generally try not to overload circuit breakers, but at Christmas time I worry about that, with Christmas tree and other lights. Maybe you can do a hub on that. Love your bio, BTW.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 23 months ago from Philippines

      Mel Carriere, thank you for visiting! And thank you too for your wonderful comments. I'm very thankful that you have a good circuit breaker. Would you believe in the Philippines most homes don't have something as fundamental as this? Stay safe:)

      Travmaj, thank you for your kind comments. I love this hub community:). I hope you are taking good care of your home and keeping an eye out for warning signs that can lead to electric disasters. And I hope you have a fantastic circuit breaker. Good to hear from you:)

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 23 months ago from australia

      I agree - excellent suggestions all round. We do tend to take electricity and other items for granted and forget to check these things thoroughly from time to time. Some all round, solid information here. Thank you.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

      Great tips Mona. I haven't had an electrical incident yet, but luckily our home is equipped with some pretty good breakers, which I've blown countless times. This is great advice for everyone. Great hub!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 23 months ago from Philippines

      Hello Mr. Bill, how wonderful to always hear from you. Thank you for your kind words, and I do hope that your lovely family and home stay safe from accidents caused by electricity.

      Ms. Dora, you are like a ray of sunshine. Nothing beats the original hub pages gang. Thank you for dropping by, and for your kind words:). Hope all is well with you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 23 months ago from The Caribbean

      Very good information, Mona. You give good precautionary advice. Congratulations again, on your publication.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I am constantly doing work on our old house and these are all excellent suggestions, Mona!

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