Swedish Medical Center
February 10, 2021

February 9, 2020—Englewood, CO— National Burn Awareness Week is observed the first full week of February and promotes safety education and burn prevention. This year, the American Burn Association (ABA) has dedicated the week to electrical safety from A to Z (from Amps to Zap). In a world driven by technology, Dr. Benson Pulikkottil, medical director of the Burn and Reconstructive Center at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO, believes you can never be too careful when it comes to handling electrical devices and appliances.

“There is hardly a more dangerous type of burn than an electric burn. Misused or malfunctioning electrical products have the ability to send electrical currents through the body, damaging not only the external but the internal as well,” he said. “Besides electrocution, they can also cause severe contact burns and fires. So, use caution when handling any electrical device or appliance.”

Dr. Pulikkottil recommends the following tips when using electrical products:

  • Never use cords that are frayed or show signs of wear.
  • Ensure that all outlets have faceplates.
  • Never piggyback plugs. There should be no more than one plug in each receptacle and no more than two plugs per outlet.
  • When using heating appliances like coffeemakers, toasters, and space heaters, plug them directly into a wall outlet. They should be the only thing plugged into the outlet during use.
  • Large appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, microwave ovens, and air conditioners should be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
  • All light fixtures and lamps should have shades or globes.
  • Ensure all lightbulbs are tightly screwed in, and they are the proper wattage for the light fixture.

Electrical injuries can happen to anyone in the family, regardless of age. Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America treats young patients injured chewing on wires or sticking small objects into outlets too often for comfort. Though not always preventable, there are a few extra steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of electrical injury to little ones.

“Children of all life stages can find mischief with outlets or cords. Be sure that chords and wires are always tucked out of reach and unplugged when not in use. And consider installing socket covers on all the outlets around the house. Between curiosity and social media dares, you can never be too careful,” said Dr. Pulikkottil.

Another important step toward electrical safety in your home is the installation of circuit interrupters. Of all electrical fires, wiring and electrical distribution account for a majority of them. Circuit interrupters are essential to preventing these types of fire hazards, specifically arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). AFCIs automatically shut off the electricity under dangerous conditions, such as sparking or arcing due to loose or corroded wires. GFCIs protect against shock hazards, which is why they are normally installed in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and basements. Working in tandem, these two types of circuit interrupters directly aid in preventing fires and electrical injuries.

“There is no such thing as being too safe when it comes to electricity, especially in old buildings or houses. Learn the signs of electrical malfunction. If you notice something wrong with an electrical appliance, stop using it immediately and have it inspected by a professional,” said Dr. Pulikkottil.

Call an electrician as soon as possible if any of the following apply:

  • Your wall outlets look discolored or feel warm to the touch.
  • Your outlets spark when you plug in or unplug cords.
  • You smell a burning or rubbery smell around your appliances.
  • You experience a tingling feeling when you touch light switches.
  • Your lights frequently flicker or dim for no known reason.
  • You frequently have blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.