During the holiday season, many of us turn our attention to gift giving, and while the shiny, trendy and pricey may make a big splash when the unwrapping’s done, practical gifts can leave lasting impressions. What’s more, they can really make a difference by enhancing safety and improving security.
This month, we’re offering a few practical gift ideas that can make a real difference in helping to reduce safety risks year-round.
Smoke Detectors: Most of us have at least one in our homes, but experts say that’s not enough. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that a working smoke detector be installed in every bedroom, on every level of a home, and in hallways outside of sleeping areas. And, if smoke detectors are more than 10 years-old, they should be replaced.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Carbon monoxide or CO is a colorless, odorless gas created by incomplete consumption of fuels like gasoline, wood, natural gas, propane, oil, coal or methane. The gas is highly toxic, so having CO detectors outside of sleeping areas and on every level of a home improves overall safety. Local fire departments in the United States respond to about 80,000 non-fire CO incidents each year. The National Fire Protection Association also recommends that fuel-burning heating equipment and cooking appliances be professionally inspected once a year to reduce the risks of malfunction and detect structural problems early.
Extension Cords: They are not all created equal; subject to wear; have specific use guidelines; and are never recommended for permanent use. Brittle and cracked plastic can indicate heat damage, and exposed wires or frayed connections increase risks of shocks, shorts or fires. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an extension cord that’s warm or hot to the touch is a good indication that it’s not designed to safely do the job. Consider giving an assortment of extension cords designed for indoor or outdoor use, and before you buy, look for the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), CSA-International (CSA) or Intertek (ETL).
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters: Arcing and sparking are among indications that a home’s electrical wiring needs service. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) can help address electrical fire hazards before they occur. Properly installed by a licensed electrician, AFCIs can often replace circuit breakers in an existing electrical panel box. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that the work be completed by a qualified electrician because the installation involves working inside the electrical panel box, which carries current even when main circuit breakers are turned off.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters: While AFCIs are designed to help prevent electrical fire hazards, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are designed to help prevent shocks. Older homes may have just one, typically in an area where electric outlets are relatively close to a water source. But over the years, the National Electric Code has been amended to require their use for outdoor outlets, in attics and crawl spaces, bathrooms, garages, kitchens, crawl spaces, and near laundry or utility sinks and around wet bars. GFCI outlets should be tested regularly, and that means as often as once a month. Although they can last 15 to 25 years, some will malfunction in five years or less. While they can continue to carry current, once they lose their ability to mitigate shocks by immediately closing off current, they should be replaced. A licensed electrician can do the job quickly and professionally.
Any of these gift ideas will offer peace of mind for the giver and the receiver, and they’ll reduce risks throughout the holidays and improve safety for years to come.
Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.