People really like sparks; you can hear it in our language. Sparks of inspiration, ingenuity and creativity – eureka moments. Sparks of joy, love, and compassion – human connection. We speak of sparks anytime we want to describe something full of energy, ready to ignite the fires of our passion, those moments when sparks fly. Metaphorical sparks are well and good, but when real sparks start flying in your home, you may have an electrical fire on your hands; that’s an emergency.

Avoiding electrical fires is the best way of dealing with them because once one occurs, it can be fast-spreading and difficult to put out. One key way of preventing fires is by making sure you’re using the right equipment; don’t use power cords that are worn and frayed, and avoid tampering with any cords or circuitry if you’re not a skilled electrician. Some folks will take a prong off of their three-prong plug to make it fit into a two-prong outlet; don’t do that.

The way you position and use your extension cords and power bars has a significant effect on the likelihood of an electrical fire. Don’t run cords underneath carpet or anywhere they’re likely to be tread upon. Avoid using multiple power bars on the same outlet, and don’t daisy chain (a term for plugging in multiple devices in a series) your power bars. Unplug devices by their plug, and not by pulling the cord, and keep electronics away from heat sources and water.

The way your house is wired can also impact the likeliness of electrical fires; old knob and tube wiring are particularly susceptible to short-circuit. Consider hiring top-rated electricians to get modern wiring in your home. You can also hire electricians to replace two-prong outlets with three-prong ones; three-prong outlets have a grounding wire that reduces the chances of electrical fire in the case of a short circuit. There are a number of signs that might indicate a need for an electrical inspection. If your circuit breaker is constantly shutting power down when you plug more than one item into an outlet, if you have to run extension cords through your house to have enough outlets, or if the lights dim every time you use an appliance, you may be at risk for an electrical fire.

Should such a fire occur, remember to never use water to put it out. Water is great at conducting electricity, so pouring it onto an electrical fire puts you at risk of electrocution and enables the fire to spread. If it is safe to do so, unplug the source of the fire, then apply baking soda. You can also smother it with a heavy blanket; the goal is to cut off the supply of oxygen to the fire. Class C fire extinguishers (most at home extinguishers are class ABC, and fit this criterion) will also put out an electrical fire. If you can’t control the fire, get to a safe place and call 911.