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Five Ways to Protect Your Barn from Barn Fires

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If you have a barn for livestock or even for farm equipment, it's important to take every precaution to protect the barn from damage. One of the most common ways barns are destroyed is through fire. Electrical fires are one of the most common causes of barn fires, and, sadly, most of them could be prevented through careful planning and thorough maintenance.

You can personally avoid most electrical fires if you do the following:

1. Properly insulate wiring.

Barns, unlike houses, are not finished to the same extent so that all wires and outlets are hidden in the walls. Wires are often left exposed. Exposed wires are more susceptible to damage from external sources, but it is easier to spot the damage and fix it early on. If you notice that the coating of the wiring has melted, shrunk, cracked, or been chewed by mice or rats, have an electrician replace it as soon as possible. 

For long-term protection against damage from rats, mice, bats, and other pests, properly store exposed wires by running them through PVC pipes or metal wire casing. 

2. Refrain from overloading barn outlets.

Barns might not have as many outlets as your house does, so you might attempt to make the placement of the outlets more convenient by using plug splitters and extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, always unplug it after use and hang it up out of the way. Never leave an appliance plugged in long term with an extension cord. If you need more outlets for more permanent use, talk to an electrician about reconfiguring the electrical system of the barn to be more user friendly.

3. Use external heaters sparingly.

Portable heaters are necessary in farm life, especially during cold or wet months when livestock are ill or pregnant. However, these heaters should never be used when you are not present in the barn, and they should never be left plugged in, even if they are switched off. Portable heaters draw tremendous amounts of electricity, which can trip the breakers in your electrical panel or even cause a short in the outlet. A single spark from an electrical short can ignite oily rags or hay that is too close to the heater. 

4. Keeping lights, electrical sockets, and wiring clean and clear. 

If possible, choose to store dry, baled hay somewhere other than the barn. Many farmers use the barn for both hay storage and animals because it is more convenient to do so. However, once a bale is cut, hay can be blown or thrown into the path of an electrical outlet or even settle on a lose or live wire. Even the cleanest of barns with in-house hay storage will face this problem, so invest in a hay storage building elsewhere on the property. Clean up used rags, towels, or bandages daily and try not to stack anything like tack or feed in front of electrical panels or outlets. 

5. Upgrade old electrical systems sooner rather than later. 

If you have outbuildings built before 1950 that have original electrical systems, it is time to upgrade as soon as possible. Not only will newer lights and outlets save you money in electrical costs, but older barns could have knob and tube wiring, which is much more hazardous to a barn than newer electrical systems. Talk to a residential electrical contractor about what it will take to upgrade your farm's electrical system(s). 

Saving your barn from fire is the result of proactive planning and fastidious attention to safety and detail. By following the above guidelines, you will greatly reduce your chances of losing a valuable asset to your livelihood. Contact a professional electrician from a company like All American Air & Electric, Inc. to get the help you need.