Short circuits – common cause for most fire accidents


Happy Birthday to you (chorus)

(there is a blackout)

Prolite Autoglo - logoThere is a big AWWWWW! Light gaya. Suddenly someone says, run man it’s a fire and the flames are rising, (screams, shouts, falling furniture sounds, glass breaking sounds, crying children) slowly there is total silence.

Crackling of fire and serene music.

Voiceover-The birthday party became a tragic scene of death. No one could get out because there were no lights, no signs and all the people ran here and there banging into each other tripping over furniture but having no vision to see the door that was barely a few feet away. All the children and adults were a mass of charred flesh by the time help arrived. Why did it happen WHY! WHY!

Only because there were no escape route signs or emergency lights. When the power failed darkness blinded everyone and death walked into the birthday party. NBC norms are very clear that any enclosed premise MUST have in place Emergency lighting and photoluminescent signages to guide people to safety in such disastrous moments. Someone chose to ignore it and as a result EVERYONE died.

Let’s face it life gives us just two sets of real choices when it comes to any action to be taken in any situation. What we want to do and what we have to do. The second option obviously trumps the first one and yet many still choose the first and end up suffering at leisure most often.

This choice becomes stark when it comes to fire safety. Fire safety must begin with awareness, and this awareness is not just those who are connected in some way to the subject, but to all right from the common housewife cooking in the kitchen to the common man smoking in his hall in a flat.

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Awareness will not come to you; you need to seek it…unfortunately. You have to talk about the subject with Fire safety personnel in your immediate vicinity, take part in fire safety drills and lectures/ presentation that are conducted time to time by local fire safety bodies like Fire Brigade. This way, in a fire situation, you have clear idea what are the immediate steps to be taken to save lives and limit damage.

This is what we HAVE TO DO even if we may not WANT to do it.

“Rakh diya pistol tere samne ai yaar le, mujh se kar le dosti ya khud ko goli maar le.”

A fire accident can happen for a variety of reasons but an electrical short circuit has been found to be the most common cause. A short circuit is an abnormal connection between two nodes of an electric circuit intended to be at different voltages. First, an electrical short circuit causes current overload. Second, this overload causes high heat. Last, this high heat increases the temperature of surrounding materials until the temperature reach to a point that objects catch fire. As obvious, short circuits can cause serious damage, fire, and even small-scale explosions. In fact, short circuits are one of the leading causes of structural fires around the world.

If an electrical fire starts, the practical steps to be taken are:

  • Cut off the electricity. If the device that is causing the electrical fire is found, and you can reach the cord and outlet safely, unplug it.
  • Add sodium bicarbonate. …
  • Remove the oxygen source. …
  • Don’t use water to put it out. …

What are the safeguards available to prevent a short circuit? Some may be:

Fuses – One-time current limiting devices made to open the circuit if the current exceeds a specified limit for a specified time. Fuses can be slow-blow or quick-acting.

Circuit Breakers – Re-settable current limiting devices. Most are dual-action that can trip on instantaneous overload or a longer, but lower, overload. Also carry an interrupt rating – how much current they can safety interrupt. Some larger breakers have adjustable time delays to help coordinate with other breakers.

Thermal Cut-outs and thermostats – Provide circuit interruption (either temporary or permanent) if the temperature gets too high.

Grounding (Earthing) – Important not only because it keeps all exposed parts of the system at about the same potential to prevent electrocution hazards, it also provides a low-impedance path capable of tripping a breaker if a fault current occurs.

Fire accidents claim lives and property regularly in frightening sequence every minute, so the best bet must be to ensure safety of electrical connections by the methods as explained and nipping the threat at the bud. If at all a fire still happens, exigency products like emergency lights, safety signages, exit signs etc. and established protocols must be utilized to ensure quick and safe escape.

Fire departments have awareness programs and drills regularly and common people must make it a habit to learn and acquire necessary skills to be always alert to fire hazards.