How To Put Out An Electrical Fire Quickly & Safely: A Step-by-step Guide
Degradation, damage, and faulty wiring often cause electrical fires. They account for 6.8% of all residential fires, which seems like a small number compared to fires caused by cooking and heating equipment.
However, electrical fires cause more injuries and more than double the monetary damage of non-electrical fires, resulting in more than 1,400 injuries, 500 fatalities, and $1.3 billion in property damages per year.
For this reason, it’s important to learn what to do if you’re faced with an electrical fire on your property. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to put out an electrical fire quickly and safely.
Step 1: Disconnect the Power Source
If you can locate the device that is causing the fire and can safely unplug it, do so immediately. This will prevent flames from spreading and reduce the secondary risk of electrocution.
If the fire has already spread, disconnect electricity from the property altogether where possible.
If you can turn off the power, you can use water to put out the fire, as the electricity can’t be conducted. If removing the power isn’t an option, do not use water and start with step 2.
Step 2: Cover in Baking Soda
For smaller fires, smother the flames with baking soda to stop the fire from growing. The sodium bicarbonate in baking soda stops the fire’s oxygen supply and is also used in some Class C extinguishers.
To apply baking soda, you need to keep your hands at a safe distance to prevent burns. Pour directly from the container towards the source of the fire. If you haven’t disconnected the power, take care not to touch the appliance in the process of applying baking soda.
It’s a common misconception that you can use flour in place of baking soda. Do not do this, as it could make the flames worse.
Do note that this will only work for small fires. For larger fires, you should start with Step 3 or Step 4, depending on the size.
Step 3: Use a Fire Blanket
Fire blankets will further block oxygen from feeding the fire, so apply one as soon as possible if you have one available and it’s safe to do so. If you don’t have a fire blanket, use a thick blanket or item of clothing instead. Make sure the item is not made of flammable material, as this could make the fire worse.
Fire blankets are usually kept in protective packages. To use it correctly, you should:
- Pull the tabs at the bottom of the packet to remove the blanket.
- Protect your hands by rolling the corners of the blanket over them before you approach the flames.
- Place the blanket gently over the flames. Do not throw or shake the blanket, as this could feed oxygen to the flames.
- Leave the blanket in place for a minimum of 15 minutes. Do not touch it during this time.
Step 4: Spray the Fire with a Class C Extinguisher
Electrical fires are Class C fires, so make sure you use the right extinguisher (Class C). However, the majority of residential extinguishers are multipurpose. These are usually labeled ‘ABC’ and will work for an electrical fire. You must check your extinguisher is appropriate before using it on an electrical fire.
It can be overwhelming when you’re faced with a fire, but you need to remember how to use the extinguisher properly. To make it easier, use the acronym PASS:
- P: Pull the pin located on the extinguisher handle. It’s usually silver.
- A: Aim the nozzle or hose at the source of the flames. Ensure you’re standing at the recommended distance for safety.
- S: Squeeze the operating handle slowly.
- S: Sweep the nozzle or the hose from left to right to put the fire out. Try to get every part of the fire. When the fire starts to subside, you can move gradually closer.
Step 5: Call Emergency Services
If you cannot put out the fire with the above steps, it’s time to call the emergency services before the fire gets out of control. You should:
- Exit the building as soon as possible to prevent injury or loss of life.
- Close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Ensure you are at a safe distance from the fire and call the emergency services (911).
- Remain at a safe distance and don’t reenter the building until the emergency services confirm it’s safe to do so.
Never try to be a hero. If you are unsuccessful in putting the electrical fire out using steps 1-4, the best thing you can do is leave the property and call the emergency services.
Step 6: Take Steps to Prevent Future Fires
While these steps are incredibly important to know if you find yourself faced with an electrical fire, it’s equally important to take steps to stop them from happening in the first place. Use the tips in this step to make an electrical fire less likely in your home.
- Have your property inspected by an electrician to make sure NEC safety provisions are being met. They’ll be able to identify any potential electrical hazards and guide you on what you need to do to reduce fire risks.
- Don’t overload your power outlets. If you don’t have enough power points in your home, discuss getting more installed with an electrician.
- Check that your light bulbs match the recommended wattage for the lamp or lighting fixture you’re using them with.
- Know the warning signs of electrical problems. Discolored outlets, burning smells from your electrical system, and smoke coming from appliances are all signs of an electrical problem that could lead to a fire. Get these checked by an electrician.
- Look out for signs of electrical failures. Common signs are fuses that frequently blow, flickering lights, and buzzing sounds.
- Do not use an extension cord for air conditioners or heating units.
- Regularly check your electrical devices for signs of wear and fraying. Don’t use old, worn, or fraying electrical items.
- Don’t use portable space heaters unless they have a safety mechanism to shut them off if they fall over. Avoid placing these next to combustible materials, and do not leave them on all night.
Can You Put Water on an Electrical Fire?
In the heat of the moment, you may think it best to act fast and pour water over an electrical fire. DO NOT follow this instinct.
Water conducts electricity, and you are at serious risk of electrocution should you douse an electrical fire. Pools of water will remain live even if you manage to put it out — posing a risk to emergency services.
No matter the size of the flames, always follow the above methods first. The conductive properties in H2O can even spread the flames further, carrying the dangerously exposed current around the room.
The only instance in which it is appropriate to put water on an electrical fire is if you can turn off the power source. Once you are 100% sure the power is disconnected, it is safe to use water. Removing the potential for conductivity keeps you safe from electrocution.
As a rule of thumb, if you have any doubts about the fire’s origin or multiple electrical sources are contributing to it, do not use water. Use a fire blanket, baking soda, or a class C extinguisher. Most importantly, contact emergency services and ask for their advice.
During an emergency, it can be hard to think straight. You must act quickly but cautiously. Follow our guide, get help fast, and you will stay safe.
The best way to deal with electrical fires depends on the property and situation. If possible, removing the power source is the most important thing to remember, and then follow the steps in this guide. If you find yourself doubting what you should do, always call the emergency services before the flames spread and get out of hand.
If you have been unfortunate and suffered an electrical fire in your home or property, you need to act quickly before the damage becomes irreparable. At All Dry USA, we can help you restore your property safely and efficiently to its pre-fire condition.
We understand how difficult dealing with fire damage is, and we work hard to get your property back to pristine condition. Call All Dry USA today for electrical fire damage repair and restoration work.