Electric fires rank among the top five causes of commercial building fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. In many cases, the source of an electric fire can be traced to electric overloads.
Electric overcurrents occur when more amperage runs across an electric circuit or outlet than the system can handle. Wires and circuit breakers heat up due to the increased electricity, increasing the risk of fire or a short circuit. Such problems are common in commercial buildings, but can be resolved with a few simple steps.
- Identify High Energy Devices - Equipment or devices with high energy demands can easily overload a commercial outlet, especially when more than one device uses the same outlet. High-energy equipment should, for safety, have its own dedicated outlet.
- Eliminate Extension Cords - Printers, computers, monitors, telephones, coffee machines, device chargers, office lights, and other electronic paraphernalia all have their own power demands, and usually outnumber available outlets. Extension cords often provide a solution. Unfortunately, the solution extension cords provide is supposed to be temporary. When multiple devices are plugged into the same outlet through an extension cord, the risk of overcurrent increases. The only exception are UL-approved power cords for computer and printer use, and even these should not be overloaded.
- Blown Fuses and Tripped Circuits Indicate a Problem - Watch for frequently tipped circuits and blown fuses. Both suggest outlets or circuits may be experiencing over-current: a problem that needs to be addressed and rectified.
- Practice Preventative Maintenance - Extension cords and loose, tangled cords can easily be damaged, cut, or frayed, all of which increases the risk of overcurrent. Within your building’s electric system loose and corroded wires or connections can trip breakers, overload, and damage sensitive equipment. Regular maintenance of both your electric system and the cords connecting to it help reduce these risks.
- Talk to an Expert - This is the most expensive means of preventing overcurrents, but also one of the most efficient. Have a licensed electrical contractor in to review your building’s energy requirements and follow up on his or her suggestions. You may expend some cash having dedicated outlets put in for high energy devices or new wiring in older electric outlets, but the price you pay for preventing electrical overcurrent is nothing compared to the cost of a commercial fire.