More than a week after a transformer explosion sent a power surge into several homes, sparking at least two fires, experts are offering advice on how to protect your property from such incidents.

“Electricity comes in waves like the ocean. But when you get a surge that high, it’s like a tsunami, it overwhelms,” says Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority general manager Steve Smith.

Last week’s transformer explosion in Acton, Ont., caused two significant house fires in neighbouring Georgetown and more than two dozen calls to 911. Residents reported seeing smoke coming from electrical sockets and power bars catching fire.

What happened last week was “extremely rare,” says Smith. “Fortunately, most of the time [the surges are] minor in nature.”

But it’s important to know there are ways to protect your home and valuable equipment.

A good quality power bar should be able to protect you from most minor power spikes, Smith says. Look for labels that show it’s approved by an accredited standards provider, like CSA (Canadian Standards Association). Use it for your important electronics like TVs and computers.

A whole house surge protector is installed directly onto your electrical panel. Its job is to prevent surges and spikes from reaching your home wiring. “They’ll sit quietly and mitigate power surges, you’ll never know,” says Smith. Whole house surge protectors should be installed by a licensed electrical contractor.

More tips from Smith:

  • Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on a regular basis.
  • Test your ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) where installed. Plug your blow dryer in, hit the test button and make sure it shuts off.
  • Regularly check your surge protection equipment to ensure it’s still effective. The more expensive models will have an indicator.

“Surges happen all the time,” says Smith. If you think you’ve had one that has affected your wires or equipment, it’s best to call a licensed electrical contractor to find the source of the problem.