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Specialist in electrical safety issues, Bernard Laurent works as an advisor for the company Lesbaudy-Paquin, a subsidiary of the Reso Élec group based in Paris, in the 15th arrondissement. Interview by Pierre Tessier What are the main risks that we see today in electrical installations? In old dwellings, compliance with safety standards is sometimes approximate and the risk exists. Pay attention to the absence of a differential circuit breaker! This essential device compares the intensity levels throughout the installation. When it detects an anomaly in the operation of your installation, it automatically cuts the current, eliminating any risk of electric shock. Bare wires and ungrounded electrical outlets - with only two pins instead of three - are a hazard. In addition, in the bathroom or kitchen, electrical outlets must absolutely be at a certain distance from water sources: at least 60 centimeters from the shower or bath, and 15 centimeters from the sink or sink . Is there a risk in using several multiple sockets connected to the same outlet? Old dwellings often lack electrical outlets, hence the temptation to add multiple sockets. But by multiplying them, we increase the installed power, which can be dangerous. The risk is limited if it is used to connect devices that consume relatively little electricity, such as a computer and its printer, for example. It is much more dangerous when it comes to more powerful devices, such as halogen street lights or electric convectors. This accumulation can cause the conductors to heat up and the rise in temperature is likely to eventually cause a fire. Better to use a single outlet per device. How do I make sure that my electrical installation meets safety standards? It is standard C15-100 which defines the criteria which your electrical installation must meet: it defines the number of sockets per room, the type of switches and circuit breakers or the possible installation of a surge arrester or a lightning rod, depending on the level of risk in your region. In new constructions, there is generally no problem because they must imperatively have the certificate of compliance with security standards to be able to be connected to the network. If you have any doubts, the easiest way is to have a compliance check carried out. It costs from 150 to 200 €. This will be mandatory from January 1, 2009 for the sale of any property whose electrical installation is more than fifteen years old. You can also make an online estimate of your electrical installation on the Promotélec website (www.promotelec.com). How can I protect my electrical installation against lightning? In the city, there is less risk of having your electrical installation damaged by lightning because the electrical network is underground. The most exposed regions are the Center and the Southwest. In this case, the best protection is still to install a lightning rod on the roof or to put a surge arrester at its circuit breaker. If you are a little handyman, you can even do it alone. There are electrical outlets with integrated surge arresters that are quite effective, especially for protecting all computer equipment. In all cases, when you go on vacation or during a thunderstorm, it is better to turn off the circuit breaker and disconnect the most sensitive devices, such as the computer or the VCR, keeping the electrical wire away from the socket.