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Thanksgiving & Fire Risk: Safety Tips

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Thanksgiving & Fire Risk: Safety Tips

A public service announcement by:


Curtis E. Falany, P.E., President
J. B. Shepherd & Company, Inc.
Forensic Electrical Engineers


According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for home cooking fires, as safety precautions can be easily overlooked while preparing a Thanksgiving feast. Below are some helpful tips to keep you, and your family safe this Thanksgiving:

  • Insure that all smoke detectors are operational and can be heard in all areas of your home. Be sure to test each alarm on a monthly basis, this determines the status of their battery life, and remember to replace batteries once a year.
  • Confirm that GFCIs (Ground fault circuit interrupters) are functional in areas that will receive heavy usage on Thanksgiving, or in areas that are at risk of water contact. GFCIs can help prevent electrocution, these devices cut off the power when a ground fault, or leakage current is detected before someone receives a shock.
  • Never leave appliances unattended while in use, all cooking should be closely supervised. Timers can be used to avoid forgetting about a dish, and ultimately aid in preventing cooking from becoming a fire hazard.
  • Keep potential hazards out of reach from guests, children, and pets. Secure electrical wires and appliances away from visitors as you may experience higher than usual traffic in your home on Thanksgiving.
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Unforseen Electrical Hazards During Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Unforseen Electrical Hazards During Halloween.


A public service announcement by:
Curtis E. Falany, P.E., President
J. B. Shepherd & Company, Inc.
Forensic Electrical Engineers


October is a month full of festive pumpkins, spooky skeletons, and sugary candy. Where families across the country decorate their homes in anticipation of trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. Often these decorations require electricity to operate as intended, which adds potential hazards that can be easily overlooked. Below are some tips to consider when decorating your home for Halloween:

  • Inspect your lights and electronics thoroughly to ensure that they are in good condition (no broken lights or frayed cords). Check the electrical outlets you plan to use outside to make certain a Ground Fault Interrupter, also called a GFI or GFCI, is present and operational. Store all decorations appropriately according to their individual instructions.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets with numerous plugs. The wattage of decorations should be checked to confirm that they can handle the load. Otherwise, circuits can be overloaded, shutting off power to the area. You are also reducing your risk of a residential fire by avoiding overloading.
  • Never use indoor lights or electronics outdoors as indoor lights are often not weather resistant. You can check if your particular lights are indoor or outdoor rated by checking the manufacturer labels.
  • Turn of lights and electronics when not in use. For example, during the daytime for outdoor seasonal lighting, and consider using a timer to plan ahead.
  • Secure extension cords away from areas with high foot traffic in order to reduce tripping hazards.
  • Avoid installing or working near power lines. When using a ladder check for power lines prior to climbing up. Check trees and shrubs before installing any decorations as they could be in contact with a power line
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Portable Generators and Back-Feed can be Deadly.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Portable Generators and Back-Feed can be Deadly.

A public service announcement by:

Curtis E. Falany, P.E., President
J. B. Shepherd & Company, Inc.
Forensic Electrical Engineers

Connecting a portable generator to your home wiring system, often called back-feeding, is a horrible, and dangerous idea. Often, you will find information on the Internet instructing that back-feeding can be done safely, but for most people it’s never safe.

Now that hurricane season is approaching many Floridians are asking, how do I safely use my portable generator?

Here are my suggestions:

Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

1. DO NOT operate your generator where deadly carbon monoxide exhaust gas can enter your home or anyone else’s.

3. Safely store extra fuel. Use approved gasoline containers in good condition and follow any written instructions.

4. Use electrical cords in good condition. Check that the original cord ends are in place, that no ground pins cut off or missing, and that no insulation is damaged.

5. Use appropriately sized electrical cords. For outlets protected by 15 amp circuit wire use a #14 AWG copper wire. For outlets protected by 20 amp circuit breakers use a #12 copper wire. Connect your critical loads to the generator using these extension cords.

6. DO NOT energize your house using a ‘back-feed’ cord. Even for experienced electricians, back-feeding can become dangerous very quickly.

As a forensic engineer, I have had cases where persons were injured or killed by back-feeding. Your back-fed generator can put thousands of volts on electric utility circuits, which endangers utility workers. Your back-fed generator may also energize the wiring in your neighbor’s home, which not only puts yourself, but also those around you at risk for major injury or death.