ELECTRICAL FIRE PREVENTION
Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 200 Americans each year and injure another 1,500 people more. While some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.
During a typical year, home appliance and wiring problems account for approximately 49,000 fires, hundreds of deaths, and about $670 million dollars in damages and 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 increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.
Part I - Home Appliances
Most electrical fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets, and old wiring. In urban areas however, problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords, are the primary cause of home electrical fires.
Electric stoves are involved in 53% of home appliance / related fires. However, these fires are mostly the result of careless cooking rather then the appliance malfunction. Electrical stoves & fixed heating units cause the most residential fire deaths while electric stoves & portable heaters are the leading cause of residential fire injuries.
Part II - Electrical Wiring
In urban areas, faulty wiring accounts for 28% of residential electrical fires. Nearly 30% of home electrical wiring fires can be traced to the misuse of electric cords, such as overloaded circuits, poor maintenance and running the cords under rugs or high traffic areas.
Electrical Safety Precaution CheckList
- 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 do not overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- When purchasing electrical appliances, look for products which meet the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) standards for safety.
- Do not allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons, and hairdryers.
- Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet away from all types of 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 and professionally replace light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker. Use safety closures to "child proof" electrical outlets.
- Check your electric tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool that causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, or gives off smoke or sparks.
- Once again, having working smoke detectors increase the chances of survival if a fire starts in your home.