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Welcome. My name is XXXXX XXXXX would be glad to assist.The first thing to remember on 3 way switches and 4 way switches for that matter, is that they DO NOT have an on/off position.ON can be up or it can be downSame with off.Only way to know is looking at the light itself, whether it is on or not.3 ways operate different than standard single poles (one location switch)3 ways will actually swap which terminal the power is on between the 2 switches.That is what makes them work at either location.In one position power is transferred to one screw terminal that makes contact with another one on the switch and light goes on.Then flipping the switch the other direction, it disconnects that terminal from the other one, and that turns the light off, but at the same time, it makes contact with the 3rd terminal that passe power to the Other switch.That is what allows for flip flopping.Below is a diagram and maybe that will help understand the wiring, just imagine how the wires are changing connections inside each switch back and forth.Just reply for any other information.Also, part of your question:There is no danger when leaving any of the switches in any position, if the light is on, it is on and it is still safe.If off, the same holds true just the light is off.
CLICK HERE and you can watch a nice video presentation by a gentleman with animation of the operations of 3 way switches.
I think I understand what you are saying but could there have two light fixtures under the dropped ceiling or I guess you would say two different light fixtures with separate bulbs. Would that 3-way switch have controlled both of them at the same time allowing both to be off or both to be on at the same time