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Michael J. Sykes: 'Each year, electrical malfunctions contribute to 35,000 home fires.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Michael J. SykesThe nature of work in the electric industry forces our employees to emphasize safety. One simple misstep could have disastrous results.

While that's especially true when working around high-voltage power lines, it's also important to prioritize electrical safety around the home and in everyday life. Because May is National Electrical Safety Month, I thought it'd be a good time to pass along some reminders to help stay safe around electricity.

Each year, electrical malfunctions contribute to 35,000 home fires, leading to 1,100 injuries, 500 deaths, and more than $1 billion in property damage. Keeping your home's electrical system up to date and being aware of your surroundings can help prevent you from joining those statistics.

Overloaded circuits are one of the primary causes of home electrical fires. Here are a few things you can do to help avoid them:

• Never use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.

• Only plug one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.

• Label your circuit breakers to understand the different electrical circuits in your home.

• If your home is more than 40 years old or you've recently installed a major appliance, have your home inspected by a qualified electrician.

• Use energy-efficient appliances and lighting.

If you notice that your breakers are tripping frequently or the lights in your home dim when other devices are turned on, your system may be overloaded. Also beware of buzzing or discolored outlets, as these too may indicate an overloaded system.

For many of us, now is the time of year for projects around the house. If that means power tools, please be careful with them and with their cords.

Don't place cords in places where people will trip over them. Make sure not to place them in water or puddles either.

If you can see the wires inside of a power cord, you should not use that cord. You can help keep your cords in good condition by pulling on the plug to disconnect them instead of pulling on the cord.

It's common to need extension cords when working on certain projects. Please remember that extension cords should be used only for temporary purposes, not permanently.

When working on outdoor projects, always be aware of the location of power lines. Be especially careful when you're working near the power lines attached to your house. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away from any power lines.

Don't trim any trees or branches that are close to the power lines. Instead, please call us at 503-397-1844 or visit crpud.net/trees so our tree crews can do the work for you at no charge.

As always, never go near downed power lines. Even if they are on the ground, they may still be energized.

Electricity is a tremendous tool and makes so many of our day-to-day activities easier and more convenient. It can also be very dangerous. So please stay safe and be careful around electricity.

Michael J. Sykes is general manager of the Columbia River People's Utility District.


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