Every now and then, you hear about a house fire happening in the Hamptons. It’s hard to believe such incidents can occur, but they do, even to responsible people. Last week, I had a close call with a fire at my house, prompting me to write this article.
It all began around 5 pm when my wife called me, informing me that a faint smell of smoke was coming from the electrical panel in the bedroom. I asked, “What do you mean?” She replied, “I mean it smells a bit. It’s definitely coming from the panel.” I inquired, “Is there a fire? Should I call the fire department?” She reassured me, “No, but you need to come here and look at it.”
I quickly rushed from my office to the house and inspected the panel. Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing, but the smell resembled that of an overworked RC car, a hot battery-like odor. The panel also emitted a worrisome whirring sound. It was not a good sign. I promptly turned off all the appliances in the house, leaving only the lights on, and the panel stopped making noise. However, the smell persisted, and panic set in. Should I even be here? I needed to call someone.
I started scrolling through electricians in my phone. My go-to guy, Esco Electric, was closed for the day, and the next one I called was also unavailable. My attempt to reach out to PSEG proved fruitless. So, I decided to try messaging PSEG on Instagram, and to my surprise, I received an immediate response. I couldn’t believe that this was the fastest way to get in touch with them, but they promptly dispatched an emergency technician to my house, and they arrived within an hour.
As he inspected the panel and the wiring, he advised us to shut off the power and spend the night elsewhere. I couldn’t believe it. After a night spent with the entire family, including the dog, crammed into one bedroom at my Dad’s house, our top priority the next day was to restore power.
Esco Electric called my cell at 6 am, and I explained the situation, saying, “The panel in my house is emitting a strange smell, and I’m afraid to keep the lights on. I need you here as soon as possible.” Like magic, Esco arrived within an hour and replaced the electrical panel, the meter, and a significant portion of the wiring. The diagnosis was that the load from the appliances had placed too much strain on my older system, causing it to overheat. “It could have easily resulted in a fire, but I’ve seen worse,” he remarked.
The whole ordeal left me deeply unsettled, and I adopted a heightened focus on fire safety. It’s absolutely essential that you have your house inspected regularly, at least once a year, by an electrician who knows what they’re doing, like Esco does.
I reached out to John Healy, a fireman in North Sea, a friend, and a top real estate agent at Saunders & Associates. John is one of those individuals who does things right, whether it’s buying a truck with all the latest gadgets or renovating his house with high-quality, long-lasting materials. When I shared my story with him, he offered a wealth of valuable advice.
“Here’s what you should do immediately. First, ensure that the electrician confirms it’s safe. You have Esco on-site, so there’s nothing to worry about there. Second, verify that all your smoke detectors are up-to-date, installed in every room, and equipped to detect carbon monoxide. Third, place fire extinguishers throughout your house, which you can find at any hardware store; I even keep them in my car. Fourth, for the upstairs, make sure you have window ladders, also available at hardware stores—emergency ladders that can be set up if you need to escape from a second-floor window. Fifth, always keep fire safety in mind as a general rule. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have your heating system serviced and ensure you clear your yard of any dead or dry vegetation.”
I diligently noted down all his recommendations on my phone. If you own a home, make sure to follow all these safety measures.