Electricity plays a major role in our daily lives but we can often take its power and the convenience it provides, along with its potential for fire-related hazards, for granted. That is why we actively support National Electrical Safety Month, an annual campaign sponsored by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), which works to raise awareness of potential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical fire safety during the month of May.
According to our most recent statistics, an estimated average of nearly 48,000 home structure fires caused by electrical problems were reported to U.S. fire departments. These fires resulted in 455 civilian deaths, more than 1,500 civilian injuries and $1.5 billion in property damage. Roughly half of these involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment such as wiring, lighting, and cords or plugs.
Fortunately, there are many simple steps people can take to greatly reduce their risk. ESFI and NFPA urge homeowners to have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician and to follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into a wall outlet. The following are additional tips residents can follow to help keep their homes safe from electrical fires:
- Only plug one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) into a wall outlet at a time. Unplug small appliances when not in use.
- Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children. If a replacement is not possible, install new protective outlet covers that don’t allow children to insert an object into the wall outlet.
- Avoid putting cords in places such as under rugs and carpets or across doorways where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture.
- Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. Check the sticker on the lamp to determine the maximum wattage light bulb to use.
- Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are a kind of circuit breaker that shuts off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home by a qualified electrician.
- Check electrical cords often. Replace any that are cracked, damaged or loose.
For additional tips and resources including infographics, fact sheets, and videos about electrical fire safety, check out ESFI’s Electrical Safety Illustrated publication and visit NFPA’s Electrical Safety in the Home webpage.