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Electrical Fire Safety
Homes today are brimming with state-of-the-art technology, entertainment, and computer equipment. However, when too many lights and appliances are attached to the electrical system, it will overload—and then overheat. The heat causes the wire insulation to melt and ignite, resulting in an electrical fire. Most electrical fires can be prevented.

All wiring systems have circuit breakers or fuses that disconnect power when circuits become overloaded. This is a safety feature to prevent overheating. When a fuse or circuit breaker trips, find the cause and correct it. Never use oversized fuses, foil wrap a fuse, or substitute a fuse with a penny. This will cancel the safety device designed to prevent overheating and cause a fire. If an electrical outlet is hot to the touch, unplug all appliances and have the wiring inspected by a certified electrician as soon as possible.

  • Two-thirds of all electrical fires begin in plugs or cords on appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, irons, microwave ovens, dishwashers, or lamps. Avoid plugging them into the same outlet or circuit.
  • Frayed cords expose the electrical wiring that can spark on contact with each other or anything that can ground the electrical current.
  • Forty-one percent of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment.
  • Fifty-three percent of home electrical fires involved other known types of equipment—including ranges, washer/dryers, fans, and space heaters.
  • Some type of electrical failure or malfunction was cited as factor contributing to ignition for 72% of electrical distribution or lighting equipment home structure fires.

    Take a few minutes this season to INSPECT THE CONDITION of your electrical cords, extension cords, plugs and outlets to make your home as safe as possible.

  • Do all the electrical appliances and cords have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Mark?
  • Are cords out from beneath furniture and rugs or carpeting?
  • Do extension cords carry more than their proper load?
  • Are any outlets or switches unusually warm or hot to the touch?
  • Do all outlets and switches have cover plates?
  • Is any cover plate discolored? (Discoloration could indicate that the wiring behind the plate is overheating.)
  • Do all electrical plugs fit snugly into their outlets?
  • Are any outlets overloaded with more than two appliances?

    Remember, extension cords are for temporary use only, and not for use as a permanent extension of a home’s wiring system.

  • Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
  • Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
  • Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
  • If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.
  • Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas.
  • Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.

    Our lives depend on the safe use of electricity in our homes and apartments. Even what might appear as a minor problem, can lead to fire. If you rent your home or apartment, there are important questions that you should ask of your landlord that will help protect you and your family. Consider asking your landlord some or all of the following questions:

  • When was the last time my residence was inspected by a qualified electrician?
  • Has my residence ever experienced an electrical fire?
  • What kind of wiring does my residence have?
  • Are tenants permitted to do electrical work in their residences?
  • Are outlets in the bathrooms, around kitchen countertops, basement, and outdoors protected by a GFCI?
  • Who is responsible for testing my GFCI outlets on a monthly basis?
  • If I suspect there is a problem with my electrical wiring, who should I contact?
  • Am I permitted to contract out to get my own inspection of the electrical system?

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