Storms, Tornadoes, and Electricity! Oh My!

Circuit Tester

Circuit Tester

It has been a month since entries have been added to Maria’s Quilt Scraps, and for a very good reason. On August 20th, Southern Ontario was hit by severe storms that spawned 8 tornadoes some of which were of the F2 category. Well over 600 homes were severely damaged from one tornado alone – the closest one to us – and a good 200 were completely destroyed. The loss of life was the worst of it, very sadly, that of an 11 year old boy.

The weather channel advised us to go into our basements, which we did, but soon afterwards, I began to smell fire. That sounds strange, I know, but it didn’t seem to be smoke I was smelling. It was a very weak smell which became stronger, but though we searched our house, we couldn’t find the source and thought perhaps that it was somehow getting in from outside. Afterwards, when the storm was over I began to turn on lights and found that several weren’t working. It was too late in the evening to call an electrician which we did the following morning. In the meantime, my husband went and bought a circuit tester and tested all of the outlets in our house. To our surprise, many of them registered “hot” which is dangerously unsafe.

The electrician thought we might have been hit by lightening and advised us to flip the breakers to all of the affected outlets. Unfortunately, many of the outlets weren’t marked and we’d no idea if the affected ones were all off. If they weren’t, we were told that arcing could happen which would result in a fire. We were advised to stop using everything but our stove, frig, and freezer.

Upon inspection, the electrician discovered that it we were not hit by lightening after all. Instead, wind driven rain had caused water to get into an outside outlet which shorted the wire and started it burning. That’s what I’d smelled. Very fortunately for us, the wire burned only a little way into the house and then burned itself out. It turned out that our two outside outlets were not up to code for the present time. The caps on them were not waterproof. It’s unlikely that waterproof caps were available 40 odd years ago when the house was built.

Much to our surprise, our “hot” outlets had nothing to do with water getting into the outside outlet. The electrician found that in those, the wires were reversed and since no work has been done on the since our house was built, it means they were put in wrongly in the first place. They have been “hot” and dangerous all of these years. We are simply very fortunate that no arcing occurred and therefore no house fire! I shudder to think about it because one of the rooms was our younger son’s bedroom after which it became my sewing room. Those outlets have been in constant use! We were twice blessed. Firstly by the wire burning itself out and secondly by its causing our other outlets to be checked.

One of my thoughts after the fact was that had we had a fire, we had no inventory of any of our belongings for insurance purposes and we could not have relied on our memories. Making a claim would have been a nightmare. We are taking care of that now by having it professionally done by Niagara Home Inventory.

Actually, that fact is rather embarrassing. Besides being a quilt designer, I design websites and Niagara Home Inventory is one of the ones I’ve created and still maintain. One would think I would have availed myself of their services long ago, but as the saying goes, “better late than never” and although it’s something we could do for ourselves, the great majority of us just never take the time.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? To urge you to go right out and buy your own circuit testers and to test every outlet inside and outside your home, not forgetting your garage (where one of our “hot” outlets was found). They are inexpensive, costing $10 in our area.
Your safety is worth that investment! Get your home inventory done, too!

The circuit testers have a graph right on them explaining the combination of lights that will go on when plugged into an outlet, so they are easy to use and decipher.

For a variety of reasons, it took 10 days before our electrical problems were solved after which I was so far behind with computer work that I have yet to finish catching up. That’s the reason that a whole month has gone by without an entry to my blog.

Be safe!

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