Fire safety electrical issues are major cause of fires – news – the hingham journal – hingham, ma current electricity definition physics


Overloaded circuits and extension cords are two major causes of electrical fires. The electrical wiring in older homes is not keeping up with today’s demands. When these homes were built electric appliances, entertainment equipment, computers and various devices that need to be charged were not in the original plans.

The main use of electricity was for lights and maybe you had an outlet in each room. Of course, Hingham’s oldest homes had no electricity when they were built. Today’s demand for electricity is incredible. To keep up with it safely it is a good idea to have your electrical system periodically surveyed by a licensed electrician especially if you own an older home.

If you find yourself tripping over extension cords and buying outlet multipliers then it is probably time to make the call. If you need assistance in finding a licensed electrician you can call the building department for help. Remember your electrical system is just like any other part of your house it requires maintenance.

An electrical fire can present itself in many ways, a burnt plastic smell, a crackling or popping sound in wall, a discolored or darkened object or a wall, switch or plug, wire or device that is warmer than usual. Do not ignore your senses. Investigate it, maybe the sound is inside a wall.

At this point you may or may not have smoke and an odor. Heat maybe present at an electrical outlet, switch, device or a wall maybe warm to the touch. If you find any of these conditions call 911 for the Fire Dept. Do not hesitate to report burning plastic odors that could be as simple as an overheated motor or as serious as an electrical fire.

Immediately report sudden changes such as newly dimmed or extra bright lights and lights that go on and off without the use of a switch. These could be signs of a broken neutral or ground which is a serious problem. We have Thermal Imaging Cameras or T.I.C.’s that we can use to seek out hidden electrical issues without opening up walls. The T.I.C.’s also allow us to rapidly scan rooms for problems when it’s an odor only presentation.

The sooner you call 911 the quicker we can mitigate the problem. If we do find an electrical problem we call in a wiring inspector who helps us make the situation safe. Sometimes the Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant has to be called in to make a power disconnect on more serious problems. At any rate we all work well together to fix the problem.

If you have to use an extension cord make sure it is the proper gauge or wire size. If a cord is warm to the touch unplug it. Devices that require a lot of electricity need bigger or heavier electrical cords. Do not run extension cords across doorways or under rugs. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging in appliances

Some Air-Conditioning units may require a separate circuit. Buy Tamper Resistant receptacles for homes with small children and make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s) in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, basement and outdoor areas. Again a Licensed Electrician can help you with these projects.

Speaking of projects, if you are going to paint your house please pick the right color and be careful around your overhead electrical service. Do not let your body, ladder or other equipment come in contact with your house electrical service.

Employees of the Hingham Municipal Light Plant will come out free of charge and sleeve and wrap your electrical service in an insulating blanket. This will allow you to work safely in that area. The H.M.L.P. is also the right place to call when tree limbs are on or close to your electrical service line. View their great website at: or call 1-781-749-0134 for customer service available 24 hrs. a day.

Plan your project; give them time to come out. Do not wait until Friday afternoon to call for a Saturday paint project. As soon as your paint dries make sure you replace your house number. We may be looking for you in an emergency. The number should be clearly visible from the street. If your house sits back from the road you may have to add “numbers”, (excuse the pun) to a pole, post or rock closer to the street.

If you have an underground electrical service you have something else to worry about. Digging!!! No matter how small the job call 811 or 1-888-DIGSAFE before you dig, it’s a State law. You need to call 811 even if you are just replacing your mailbox, digging fence posts or planting a shrub or tree. Especially if you have underground utilities (Electric, cable, telephone and Gas). Again, do not wait until Friday for a Saturday job. Dig- Safe requires a three business day notice. Pre-Mark the site where you will be digging with white flags, paint or posts prior to calling.

Last but not least do not become a victim of Mother Nature’s Electricity (Lightning). When the Thunder roars go indoors, stop all activities, seek shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle and wait at least thirty minutes after the Storm to resume activities.