How to Prevent, Predict, and Control an Industrial Electrical Fire
Has your facility ever had an electrical fire?
Did you ever have trouble getting it under control?
Are you wondering why it started or how to prevent it from happening again?
Do you need help putting a plan in place in case it happens again?
If you answered yes to any of these, then this article is for you!
Let’s jump right in!
How Does an Electrical Fire Start?
Although an arc flash can result in an electrical fire, it is not how most electrical fires start. The most common way an industrial electrical fire can start is through faulty wiring. Faulty wiring can range from a simple mistake when installing the wires (making loose or wrong connections) to damaged wires from wear and tear. In either case, the wires have the potential to spark and ignite an electrical fire!
The next most common way is overloading the circuit or wires. Overloading can happen when the wire is too small for the load current that’s being drawn. This can cause wires to gradually heat up and potentially melt which can produce an electrical fire. For example, this is what can happen if you replace a light bulb with one that’s rated for too many watts or a motor with one that’s rated for too much horsepower.
How Is an Electrical Fire Prevented?
Even though we state above that faulty wiring and overloads are the leading causes of electrical fires, the truth is that they are both merely symptoms of an underlying problem. That problem is lack of due diligence. As always with electrical systems, regular maintenance is how you help prevent electrical fires before they start. Conducting regular inspections and maintenance according to the manufacturer's specifications is paramount when it comes to preventing electrical fires. Along those lines, you will also want to be sure that any new installations are done according to the guidelines of all codes and standards that apply.
Can an Electrical Fire be Predicted?
Although there is no definite telltale sign of an electrical fire, there are some warning signs that may indicate an electrical fire is in the works. Some of these signs might include:
Strange noises or smells coming from electrical equipment.
A protective device is repeatedly tripping due to overloads.
An excess of heat on or around the electrical equipment.
In each case you will want to disconnect the power source from the equipment and place it out of service until a qualified electrical worker can inspect it. Always be sure your equipment is in an electrically safe work condition before operating or performing any work on it.
What to Do and Not to Do in the Event of an Electrical Fire?
Not to do:
- Do not Panic. If you are in the vicinity of an electrical fire, the first step is always to remain calm. Panicking can cause you to make rash decisions and prevent you from thinking clearly.
- Do not use water as a means of putting out the fire. As the fire is electrical by nature and water is a natural conductor, using water to put out the fire before disconnecting the power source can not only spread the fire, but also cause you to get shocked or electrocuted.
- Do not use a fire extinguisher unless it is properly rated for electrical fires. This can be verified by ensuring the extinguisher lists Class “C” on its label.
- You should always follow your emergency procedure; this usually begins with ensuring your own safety. You will want to quickly locate an exit and ensure that you are not going to be trapped within the vicinity of the fire. Once your safety is confirmed, you will want to immediately notify the authorities and the rest of your site about the electrical fire.
- Once the proper authorities have been notified, the first step to putting out an electrical fire is to disconnect all power sources from the equipment that is emitting the fire (if it can be done safely). *Note: Disconnecting the power should only be done by qualified personnel.
- Once the power has been disconnected, so long as you have more than one exit and the fire hasn’t gotten out of control, you may try to put out the electrical fire using any of these available resources:
a) Water (this is now safe since the power has been disconnected)
b) Fire extinguisher
c) A fire blanket
d) Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
*Note: if the fire begins to reduce your exits down to one, it is best that you take it and get to safety.
Other Lines of Defence
If you’re interested in another means of putting out a fire that doesn’t require your site personnel or the authorities, there are options. One great option is the Stat-X Aerosol Fire Suppression System. This is a fixed system that can be installed and used to detect and extinguish fires in countless different settings. If you’re looking for a reliable system that will mitigate the risk and damage of electrical fires, this may be the right product for you!
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