In 2011, 47,700 home structures reported electrical failure or malfunction related fires to U.S. fire departments. These fires resulted in 418 civilian deaths, 1,570 civilian injuries, and $1.4 billion in direct property damage. Here are 9 tips from the NFPA to help prevent electrical fires in your home!
1. Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician.
Qualified electricians are trained to install all electrical outlets and wiring to meet building codes and standards. They will make sure all fixtures are installed properly, and a qualified electrician will be able to see a faulty outlet from a mile away.
2. When you are buying or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a qualified electrician.
Once again, a qualified electrician will be able to properly inspect all electrical outlets, installations, and fixtures. It is better to have your home inspected by a professional than by a third-party with a limited electrical installation education.
3. Only plug one heat-producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time.
Heat-producing appliances include coffee makers, toasters, space heaters, or any other appliances that produces heat. Reduce fire hazards by only plugging in one of these appliances into the outlet at a time, and be sure to unplug the appliance after use.
4. Major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet.
Major appliances could be refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, or air conditioners. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used because they are not meant to carry the large loads of these major appliances. If needed, avoid a fire hazard by having a qualified electrician install wall receptacle outlets closer to your major appliances.
5. Use Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) that are designed to shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs.
Arc faults are unintended arcs created by a current flowing through an unplanned path. The arcs create high intensity heat that result in burning particles which could easily ignite any surrounding material, such as wood framing or insulation. Having an AFCI will definitely help prevent a house fire at the hand of an arc fault. You can learn more about AFCIs and arc faults at afcisafety.org
. Consider having them installed in your home, and use a qualified electrician.
6. Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock.
Sometimes, electricity takes an unplanned path to ground, posing the risk of electrocution. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected.
7. Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month to make sure they are working properly.
It is very important to check all AFCIs and GFCIs to verify they are working. To test a GFCI, simply push the TEST button to turn off the power to the circuit if you have a receptacle or circuit breaker GFCI. For the receptacle outlet, push the RESET button to return power and protection. For the circuit breaker, reset the handle to restore power and protection. For more help with testing your GFCI, visit safeelectricty.org
. Have a qualified electrician come to test your AFCIs with a tester or indicator. Remember, it is always best to call a qualified electrician to test your circuit interrupters, especially if there are any issues.
8. Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets.
Extension cords are intended for temporary use. However, safety cords like Woods® SmartCord®
can monitor and sense excessive heat in outlets and plugs created by overloading, poor connections, and improper use. A safety cord is a great way to protect your home from electrical fires. As always, it is best to have a qualified electrician add more receptacle outlets to avoid improper use and overloading of extension cords.
9. Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
Using a light bulb with a larger than recommended wattage is a definite fire hazard. To avoid a house fire, be sure to use the correct bulbs in all lamps and light fixtures. There should be a sticker that indicated the maximum wattage light bulb to use.
It's in the Facts
Be sure to call a qualified electrician or contact your landlord if you notice any potential electrical malfunctions in your home.
For more information about fire prevention, Fire Prevention Week, or electrical safety, visit the NFPA website at http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/fire-prevention-week.