I've just been reading about electrical fires in homes recently because of this emergency preparedness course I have been attending lately. I guess I've always been most concerned about cooking-related fires and not given much thought to electrical fires at home.

Since prevention is always better than reaction, I got to thinking about my mother's home. It's quite old, built in the 30's, and probably was not designed to provide the power that modern living demands. I'm particularly thinking about the wiring throughout the house (the fixed wiring, not things like extension cords).

In my reading, I see these comments suggesting that an electrician can check your home wiring, but I'm wondering, how can an electrician check the status of wires behind all the walls? If my mom has slowly been overloading a particular circuit and the insulation is slowly melting away inside the wall somewhere, is that actually something that an electrician would be able to find? Or is an electrician going to just focus mostly on checking the outlets and breaker box and that's mostly it?

I'm just really curious and I'd like to know what I can and can't expect from an electrician. And since reading more on the subject, I'm realizing that I should really be more aware of the danger of electrical fires since it's right up there as far as emergencies that I'm statistically likely to face at home, and most dangerous is the fact that most of these electrical fires happen when we're all sleeping.

Actually, I remember reading an article a few years ago about how universities are having to spend a lot of money upgrading the electrical systems in their dorms because today's students bring so many power-hungry appliances with them. When I was a freshman, having a PC was still very rare, and barely any of us had TV's, let alone these giant, power-hungry flat screens that we have today. A little dorm fridge and a boombox was about it in my room.

Just think about something as simple as charging a cell phone, which none of us had not that long ago. Charging one draws, what? Maybe 300-500 mA? Multiply that by every single student in the dorm and that's a lot of juice if everyone is charging their phone every night.