Thursday, 20 October 2011

Keeping ourselves safe while we use our PCs

My uncle lost his house several years ago when a fire broke out at his place in Pag-asa, Quezon City that happened around 2:00 in the afternoon. My uncle and his wife were not around at that time and only my cousins with their nanny were at home. Nothing was saved because the fire spread quickly and only their lives were left to save. At least, they are still alive after that unlikely event.

The investigation of the fire department confirmed that the fire started at their entertainment room as told by one of my cousins who was at that time using their computer before the fire started. The extension cord to where most of their appliances were connected overloaded and the fire instantly grew bigger than they have anticipated. It became more complicated since their house is mostly made out of combustible building materials that the fire became difficult to put out.

This is one thing that most PC owners tend to forget when they start to own a PC for their home. Provisions for ample power ratings for PCs and similar devices should always be considered at the first place.

As always, several fire prevention advocates has reminded us of safeguarding ourselves against fire. Overloading our circuitry is one thing to be avoided. Our computers can be a deadly device if not properly used.

Here are some of the things that I frequently remind my friends and clients about safety when it comes to their home PCs:
  1. Avoid multiple or 'octopus' connections. Our power outlets, voltage regulators, extension cords and surge protectors always have their own power ratings inscribed on them. Make sure that you don't go over the limit. A standard surge protector is rated at 10 amps at 220 volts. Calculating its total capacity will result to 2200 watts maximum which can accept at least two computers with LCD monitors each. A good practice is to limit your connections only to a single PC and nothing more.
  2. Make use of power strips and surge protectors. Your free AVRs (automatic voltage regulator) that came as a bundle when you bought your PC is not the best option to plug your devices. Your PC requires a clean flow of current that AVRs cannot fully provide. They can only give you a venue to plug-in items with different "voltage" requirements. Power spikes in the electrical current that can damage your PC cannot be prevented without employing surge protectors. Your surge protector should be plugged-in directly to the outlet before anything else for it to work properly. It is slightly different from a standard extension cord for it has a reset switch and a built-in fuse so when something goes wrong it will cut-off the power and lower the chances of starting a fire.
  3. Provide ample space for your PC and account for properly installed power sources. To make it easier for you plug-in your PC and several devices while you work with your computer, better make provisions for enough number of outlets. Allocating higher rated outlets solely for your PC is highly recommended.
  4. Have a qualified electrician regularly check your house for possible replacements and rewiring jobs. A common practice as suggested by an electrician relative to me is to have your house rewired after 20 years at least and have it checked at least once a year. The wires may lose their quality and shed off their protective shielding after exposure to different environmental conditions overtime. Have your electrical lines checked for irregularities as soon as possible to avoid problems in the future.
  5. Do not leave your devices plugged-in when not in use. Unplugging your device does not only prevent fire but will also help in lowering down your electrical cost and in turn help in saving the environment against carbon emissions on inefficient energy use.
  6. Do not place your laptops or PC near combustible materials. These devices generate a lot of heat and if not properly monitored it may start a fire. Placing your laptop on your bed is not recommended. Instead, make use of a table or any similar furniture to place your laptop while you use it.
Make your PC usage safer. Your device should be a tool to help you with your everyday chores and not to cause inconvenience, harm or even loss of valuable life.

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