EDITORIAL: National Electrical Safety Month | Opinion

Electricity plays many roles in our lives, from powering baby monitors, cell phones, and lighting to running HVAC systems and appliances. When we flip a switch, we expect most systems or devices to do their job.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) reminds you that now is the perfect time to look around and check for potential safety hazards.

“Remember that every electrical device has a purpose and a lifespan,” said John Medved, director of safety, compliance and security services at REC. “Although we can extend their operations with maintenance and care, they are not designed to last or function forever.”

REC recommends the following periodic inspections:

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Outdoor outlets or those located in potentially damp areas of a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room often include GFCI devices. They are designed to detect abnormal current flow, breaking the circuit to prevent potential electric shock from devices plugged into the outlets.

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The average GFCI outlet is designed to last about 10 years, but in areas prone to electrical storms or power surges, it can wear out in five years or less. Check them frequently by pressing the red test button. Be sure to press the black reset button when you’re done. Contact a licensed electrician to replace failed GFCI outlets.

Loose or damaged outlets or switches

Unstable electrical outlets or wall switches showing signs of heat damage or discoloration can offer early warnings of potential shock or electrical fire hazards. Loose connections can allow arcing. If you see these warning signs, contact an electrician.

Power strips with surge protectors help protect expensive equipment such as televisions, home entertainment systems, and computer components from power spikes.

Some surge protectors include lights that flash to let you know when they have stopped working as expected, but many don’t. If your electrical system takes a hit or you can’t remember when you purchased your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.

With an increasing number of electrical devices connecting your family to the electricity you get from REC, having enough outlets can be difficult. Remember that extension cords are designed for temporary, occasional or periodic use.

If an extension cord becomes noticeably hot while in use, it may be undersized for the intended use. If it shows signs of frayed, cracked, or heat-damaged insulation, it should be replaced. If the ground prong is missing, crimped, or loose, a grounded cord will not provide the necessary protection. And always make sure extension cords used outdoors or in potentially wet locations are rated for outdoor use.

“Electricity is a necessity for modern life, and REC is committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable power to all of our members,” added Casey Hollins, General Manager – Communications and Public Relations. “We hope you’ll keep these electrical safety tips in mind so you can note any potential hazards before damage occurs.”