Electrical Safety

The City of Summerside Electrical Department is committed to promoting and educating customers and the public on the safe use of electricity. Here are some tips on being 100% safe with electricity, followed by some general information about electricity.

Major Electrical Hazards in the Home

Electrical Fires
Electrical fires can be caused by overloads on circuits not meant to carry the current flowing through them, and by poor electrical connections. A short circuit occurs when the normal current path is changed, by passing through broken insulation or a bad connection to another conductor - thus causing the short circuit. As a result of the short circuit, a very hot spark or electric arc occurs, which can ignite insulation or nearby combustibles.

Electrical Shock
Shocks happen due to electrical current (amperes) flowing through the human body. A fraction of one ampere can kill a human being. It takes one ampere (1000 milliamps) to light a 100-watt light bulb - it only takes 1/10th of an ampere to stop your heart. Misunderstanding often plays a part in these unfortunate accidents in the home. Many people think that when an appliance is turned to "off", there is no electricity in it. Not so! As long as the appliance is plugged into an outlet, parts of it are still "live". Cleaning a switched-off, but still plugged-in coffee pot in the kitchen sink can be fatal.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical device that monitors current (amperes) going in and out of a circuit. As long as the amount going in is the same as the amount coming out there is no problem. If there is a difference it means that current is escaping from the intended circuit path (and perhaps through the body of a person to ground). When this difference occurs, the GFCI quickly shuts off the current flow before serious injury or damage can happen. Differences of only 5 milliamperes (5/1000ths of an ampere) are enough to activate or trip a GFCI. It only takes 1/10th of an ampere to stop a beating heart, so GFCI's should act quickly enough to shut-off the electricity flowing to the source of the short circuit before any real harm or damage can take place. Also when compared to the 15 amperes (15,000 milliamperes) it takes to trip a household circuit, the GFCI provides excellent protection from electric shock. Protect yourself and your family members from the possibility of inadvertent electrical shock - ensure GFCI's are installed in your house as required under the Canadian Electrical Code.

Electricity: Some common electrical terms.

The amount of current that flows through a wire. This current can hurt or kill you.

The force that pushes the current along the wire. High voltage is transmitted through power lines (at up to 69,000 volts), is reduced to 120 volts when it enters your home.

This is the measure of resistance to the flow of current. The human body, especially when wet, has low resistance and easily conducts electric current.

This is the electrical power, or rate of using a certain number of amperes pushed by a certain number of volts (watts = volts x amperes). Most electrical appliances list on their labels the watts and amperes they use.

This is how the electricity you use is measured. One kilowatt equals 1,000 watts. Using one kilowatt of power for one hour equals one kilowatt-hour. A 100 watt lightbulb turned on for 10 hours would use one kilowatt-hour of electricity.