North Fork of the Blackfoot River

May – National Electrical Safety Month

Posted: April 26, 2019
Mark Hayden
General Manager – Mark Hayden

In May, we celebrate National Electrical Safety Month at Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC). We use this celebration as an opportunity to encourage our members to look around their homes and identify potential safety hazards. Every electrical device serves a purpose and has a service lifespan. While we can extend the life of a device with routine maintenance and upkeep, none are equipped to last forever. When coupled with electricity, device failures can present electrical hazards that could be avoided with periodic inspections.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Outlets found outdoors or in potentially damp locations, like the kitchen or bathroom, often include Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) features. GFCI’s are designed to sense abnormal current flows, which will cause a breaking in the circuit. This helps to prevent potential electric shocks from devices that are plugged into the outlets.

An average GFCI outlet is designed to last up to 10 years. You can check them routinely by pressing the red “test” button, just make sure you press the black “reset” button when you’re done. A licensed electrician can install or replace GFCI outlets.

Surge Protectors
Power strips with surge protectors can help safeguard devices from voltage spikes. These spikes are measured in joules, and surge protectors are rated for the joules they can effectively absorb. When the limit is surpassed, your surge protection ceases to work. Some surge protectors feature indicator lights that flicker to warn you when they’ve stopped working. If your system takes a major hit, or if you don’t recall when you bought your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.

Extension Cords
If you routinely use extension cords to power your devices and equipment, you may live in an underwired home. With a growing number of electrical devices connecting your family to the electricity provided by MEC, having a sufficient number of outlets can be challenging. However, a good rule of thumb is to only utilize extension cords temporarily.

  • If an extension cord gets noticeably warm when in use, it could be undersized for the intended use.
  • If the cord shows signs of frayed, cracked or heat-damaged insulation, it should be replaced.
  • If the grounding prong is missing, crimped or loose, a grounded cord won’t provide the proper protection.
  • Always ensure you’re using the proper exterior-use extension cords when working outdoors or in potentially damp locations.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 51,000 electrical fires are reported each year in the US, causing more than $1.3 billion in annual property damage. Don’t be a statistic! Use these safety tips to protect yourself and loved ones from potential hazards or damage. And always remember… Safety starts at home. Safety starts with you!