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Awareness can help you prevent potentially fatal, destructive, and traumatic electrical fires and electrocution. Here are some things you should be aware of:

  • Extension cords: check for fraying and cracking; these defects can cause fires. Only use extension cords temporarily, never in place of permanent wiring. When using extension cords, make sure they are listed and rated for their intended use.
  • Fuse sizes: fuses should not be larger than 20 amperes, except for ranges and dryers. In older homes, 15-amp fuses should be the largest. Oversized fuses can overheat wires and start fires.
  • Circuit breakers: check by feeling the outside by the switch handle. If the breaker is warm, have it checked for proper operation. Overloaded circuits can overheat wires and start fires.
  • Outlets and switches: if discolored or damaged, have them professionally checked or replaced. Plugs should fit fully and securely into outlets, but should not be forced. Install safety covers on all unused outlets to protect kids.
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters: look for them in your home; they're required to protect all receptacles in bathrooms, kitchen countertops, garages, basements, and outdoors. If you don't have GFCIs in these locations, have them installed. The upgrade saves lives by protecting against electrical shock. Test these devices monthly and after major electrical storms.
  • Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters: these new devices can detect shorted and broken wiring in your home and instantly shut off the circuit until corrections are made. If you're having rewiring done or building a new home, make sure your contractor is installing AFCIs in all bedroom and living area circuits.
  • Smoke detectors: check at least once a month. Replace the batteries every time you reset your clock in spring and fall. Detectors should be installed on every level of the home, in the basement, and outside and inside bedrooms. They should be connected so activation of one unit triggers the alarm in all others. A working smoke detector is the only kind that can wake you up and save your life.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed outside the sleeping areas, and if you have a fuel-burning appliance in the sleeping area, you should install one there, as well. As of Oct 1, 2005, CO detectors are required to be installed in all Vermont buildings where people sleep. Contact your local fire department or building inspector or the Vermont Department of Public Safety for more information.
  • Older homes: if your home is 30 or more years old, you should have it inspected by a qualified electrician who can identify unsafe equipment or wiring and remove or replace it as necessary.

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