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Short Circuits and Fires: The Hidden Risks of Power Cuts

June 12, 2024
A power outage in a neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt, in November, 2023. Photo credit: Amir Makar/AFP

Frequent power outages, part of a load-shedding plan presented by the Egyptian government, are leaving residents frustrated over the disruptions to their daily lives, and the scorching heat they can not evade using an air conditioner or a fan when electricity is out. Amidst this inconvenience, there is also a growing fear of the potential damage to their electrical appliances caused by these power cuts.

Fluctuations in electrical currents are not limited to mere power outages; their implications are far more consequential, potentially resulting in short circuits that can lead to fires if left unattended. 

A short circuit is when an electric current travels along an unintended path, connecting two points of unmatched voltage in an electrical circuit. This abnormal flow of electrical current can lead to overheating, damage to the circuit components or device, and possibly cause a fire.

Al Ahram Studio caught fire on 16 March this year due to a short circuit, according to a police investigation.

Several other fires caused by short circuits have occurred in recent months throughout Egypt. 

A few months after the Al Ahram Studio incident, on 3 June, a short circuit fire erupted in El Omraniya, Giza. Six days later, a short-circuit fire ensued in Badrshein, and the next day on 10 June, an apartment caught on fire in Imbaba, both in the same city of Giza.

“Repeated power outages and reconnections can damage electrical appliances,” the head of the Electrical Appliances Division, Ashraf Hilal, stated in a phone interview with the TV program Ala Mas’ouliyaty (It’s on me) on Sada El Balad channel. He stressed the importance of shutting off the main house switch and unplugging appliances after a power outage to prevent damage.

When power is restored after an outage, it can return at a voltage higher or lower than usual, posing a risk to electronic devices, technicians explained, according to Al Masry Al Youm. 

Hilal also suggested using a voltage stabilizer during outages to absorb excess power.

Multiple measures can be taken to protect home electrical devices from a short circuit. One can start by unplugging all devices once the electricity goes out. Turning off all the light switches to avoid sudden electrical surges once power is restored could also help prevent damage and fires.

To ensure a family’s safety, residents of homes that frequently experience unstable electrical currents should issue a complaint to their electricity distribution company or the Egyptian Electric Utility & Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency.

Additionally, after power is restored, it is important to wait a couple of minutes before reconnecting electrical appliances, as this allows the voltage to stabilize, ensuring they operate safely and effectively.

Regular maintenance or additional upgrades to the electrical network by a specialized technician could also help avoid such hazardous incidents. 

Implementing preventive measures and practicing safe habits during power outages can greatly reduce the risk of electrical short circuits and fires.

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