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  • Electrical Fire Safety

  • Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 310 Americans each year and injure 1,100 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures, but many more are caused by incorrectly installed wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

    The United States Fire Administration (USFA) would like consumers to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from electrical fires.

    The Problem 

    • 28,600 fires and $1.1 billion in property losses occur during a typical year.
    • 53% of residential electrical fires involve electrical wiring.
    • December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires.
    • Many fires begin in the bedroom, but those that begin in the living room/family room/den areas result in the most deaths.

    The Cause 

    • Most electrical distribution fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring.
    • Light fixtures and lamps/light bulbs are also leading causes of electrical fires.
    • Problems with cords (such as extension and appliance cords), plugs, receptacles, and switches also cause many home electrical fires due to overloading circuits, poor maintenance, and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.

    Safety Precautions 

    • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
    • Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
    • Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.
    • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
    • Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
    • Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
    • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
    • Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons, and hair dryers.
    • Use safety closures to "child-proof" electrical outlets.
    • Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
    • Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

    Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.


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