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Electrical Emergencies

What To Do In Case Of Power Failure
Look out a window and see if you can determine if it's just your house or if it's a problem with the "grid" (your whole neighborhood). If it affects houses other than yours, notify the utility company. If the lights are on in your neighboring homes, check your breaker box for blown fuses, tripped breakers or tampering. Simply reset your main breaker or replace a blown main fuse. For guidance on how to replace a blown fuse or what to do if a fuse has turned black, see our guide on Circuitry. If the power failure occurred spontaneously (that is, you didn't just turn your space heater on high, run your vacuum, or hear your fridge's motor crank on, etc.) then your breaker box may need replacement, which means its time to call a pro.

If it blew because you think you may have overloaded it, then take steps to limit the circuit load in the future by disabling other appliances using the same circuit before you run anything that gulps down huge amounts of wattage. For more information on how to avoid circuit overload, visit Circuitry.

What To Do If An Appliance Sparks or Smokes
Avoid touching the appliance itself, but unplug it immediately (or cut the power if it's controlled by a switch). If there is no other way to turn off the appliance, disable the power feeding the circuit at your breaker box. Once the item has cooled off completely, have it serviced by the appropriate pro. If the appliance catches fire, don't try to put it out with water! If you can safely put out the fire with an extinguisher rated for electrical fires, great. If you have one shred of doubt, don't even try. Whether you can put the fire out or not, you must immediately get everyone out of the house and call the fire department when you have reached a safe place. Why? The wiring in your walls may have also caught fire and even if you managed to put out the blazing appliance, you may have a fire smoldering inside your wall. Don't return home until the fire department tells you that it's safe to do so.

What To Do If An Appliance Plug Sparks or Smokes
Cut off the power to the outlet immediately. Once you have disabled the outlet, unplug the device and let it sit until it has cooled off. Check your breaker box for signs of a blown fuse or tripped breaker and reset/replace if necessary. Inspect both the appliance's cord and its plug. If either appears to be damaged, it will need replacement. If they appear fine, the problem may be your outlet. See Replacing Outlets.

What To Do If A Light Bulb Breaks Off In A Socket
Okay, so this isn't exactly a major emergency, but it does create a dangerous situation that can easily be overcome. Unplug the lamp or turn off the switch to the installed fixture and put on safety goggles, particularly if the bulb is in an overhead receptacle. Using a piece of completely dry bar soap, carefully push one end of the bar against the edges of the broken bulb and twist it free. Discard soap.