On the Safety Circuit: A Factsheet
on Home Electrical Fire Prevention
Electrical fires in our homes
claim the lives of 700 Americans each year and injure 3,000 more. Some
of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects,
but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical
appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension
The Haworth Volunteer Fire
Department and 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.
During a typical year, home
electrical problems account for 90,000 fires, over 700 deaths, and $700
million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many
fires as electrical appliances.
December is the most dangerous
month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which
call for more indoor activities and increase in lighting, heating, and
appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.
Most electrical fires result
from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and
old wiring. Problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance
cords, also cause many home electrical fires.
In urban areas, faulty wiring
accounts for 33% of residential electrical fires.
Many avoidable electrical fires
can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as overloading circuits,
poor maintenance and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
The home appliances most often
involved in electrical fires are electric stoves and ovens, dryers, central
heating units, televisions, radios and record players.
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.
Routinely check your electrical
appliances and wiring.
Frayed wires can cause fires.
Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
Use electrical extension cords
wisely and don't overload them.
Keep electrical appliances
away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances
in the bathroom and kitchen.
When buying electrical appliances
look for products which meet the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) standard
Don't allow children to play
with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair
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.
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. Use safety
closures to "child-proof" electrical outlets.
Check your electrical tools
regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace
them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats,
shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.