When insurers surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Irene in August, they expected to see a lot of wet basements, downed trees, and damaged roofs. There was plenty of that—from North Carolina all the way up to Maine. What was surprising, however, was the number of house fires that occurred in the wake of the hurricane.
Tens of thousands of homeowners lost power during the huge storm. Many were without power for more than a week, and when it came back, some homes experienced electrical surges that sparked fires.
Hurricanes and widespread power outages are unavoidable, but homeowners can take steps to reduce the risk of an electrical surge:
- Surge arrestors form the first line of defense against voltage spikes. Usually installed in or near the main electrical service panel and, in the case of large homes, also in or near the sub panels, they are capable of taking a surge of up to 20,000 Volts, and protect the circuit breaker box, all the wiring in the home, switches and outlets, and large appliance motors.
- The second line of defense, surge protectors, are often connected to computers and home video systems, and protect those devices either by blocking, or sending to ground, voltages above a safe threshold. If it doesn’t have a reset switch or a line-status indicator, then it’s not a surge protector—it’s just a power strip.
Here are some more tips from the National Fire Prevention Association.