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Computer Safety

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Fire Safety Tips for Computers

The Enid Fire Department brings you these Fire Safety Tips for Computers with the hope that they might prevent loss of life or property.

  • Make sure that a fire extinguisher rated for Class A, B, & C fires is within a reasonable distance from your computer installation.
  • If you must leave your computer on and unattended for whatever reason, turn off the monitor during your absence. Monitors generate high voltage internally, which has the potential to start an electrical fire, or trigger an explosion in a combustible atmosphere (such as that resulting from a gas leak or combustible fumes).  Note: The switch for the monitor is usually located at the bottom of the screen, on the side of the monitor, or in some cases at the rear of the monitor. Turning off the monitor (leave the computer on) will not disrupt the computer's operation or compromise data integrity. When you return, simply turn the monitor back on and wait a few seconds for it to warm up.
  • Never operate a computer, monitor, or printer with the protective dust cover in place. Doing so could causes excessive heat build-up and trigger a failure, which can result in an electrical fire.
  • Never place beverages or other liquids on electronic equipment where the danger of spillage could occur.
  • Make sure that the electrical outlet servicing your computer is properly grounded and has a sufficient power rating to handle the components connected to it. The use of a quality surge protector is recommended to prevent damage to the computer from voltage spikes. Surge protectors with telephone connections are also available to protect modems. Computers should not be operated during thunderstorms to prevent damage and avoid the possibility of injury to the user. Many authorities suggest disconnecting the power cord and any telephone lines from the computer during thunderstorms for maximum protection.
  • Always keep a backup copy of your data in a separate building or safety deposit box; doing so will allow you to restore your data in the event of a fire or flood, rather than enduring the expense of recovery, or worse, complete data loss.
  • Ensure that your residence or business facilities meet our local fire safety codes. You may contact the Fire Marshal to schedule a free home safety check or an inspection of your commercial facility.

Examples of Fire Damage

Examples of Fire DamageHere is an example of a fire damaged system. The particular system pictured below was the source of a structure fire. The computer was inadvertently left on after the family retired for the night. Amazingly, all of the data from this computer was recovered with no losses by a professional data recovery service. 

Note the condition of the floppy drives and remnants of the faceplate, as well as the overall condition of the case. A corner of the hard disk is visible through the rectangular opening at top center of the front sub-panel.

Inside, card guides were lying in solidified puddles at the bottom of the case. Circuit boards were charred, wires were melted or burned, and metal parts were warped and twisted. The hard disk's I/O connectors were melted and its circuit board charred. Traces of melted solder were also found at several places on the hard drive's circuit board, some of which had dripped across the surface of the board and collected at the edge of the drive's frame.

The residence suffered fire damage confined to the room of origin and smoke damage throughout the rest of the home. An installed smoke detector alerted the family and prevented the loss of life.

Examples of Fire DamageMonitor: The color monitor, which was located on top of the computer, was the source of the fire. The fire appeared to have started in the high-voltage fly-back circuit located at the rear of the monitor.

Printer: The printer was the least recognizable component of the system. It could best be described as two rods and a dot-matrix print head embedded in a pile of charred plastic.

Keyboard: The keyboard was somewhat sheltered by a keyboard shelf, still its plastic was melted by hot gasses

Mouse (Not Shown): No trace of the mouse could be found among the ashes. However, its serial port connector and several inches of wire verified its existence.

Early detection, rapid notification of the fire department using 911, and aggressive firefighting are credited with confining the fire to the room of origin and rapid extinguishment. Structural damage to the residence was estimated at $1500 while damage to the contents was estimated at $10,000.