The Danger and Prevention of Electrical Fires

According to a recent report by the National Fire Protection Association, electrical fires remain one of the top causes of home structure fires. These account for approximately 50,000 home fires each year, injuring over 1,500 people and resulting in hundreds of deaths across the country.

Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects. But many more are the result of the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

One cause of electrical fires that seems to be increasing is overloaded circuits. People are using more power-hungry gadgets than older homes were designed to accommodate. Overloading circuits contributes to the breakdown of wiring and insulation that create hot spots and sparks, and can result in exposed wires that lead to fires.

By taking action to eliminate electrical hazards in your home, the chances of having a home electrical fire can be significantly reduced.  Here are some safety precautions you can take to reduce your risk of electrical fire.

  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately. Do not attempt to perform electrical work or repairs yourself.  Hire a licensed electrician.
  • When buying electrical appliances look for products which meet the standard for safety. Use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection.
  • 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.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or wall sockets.  Don’t use multiple full or almost full power strips and never plug one power strip into another power strip.  Circuit breakers that trip or fuses that blow regularly are a danger sign.
  • Avoid putting electrical cords, including extension cords, where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture, under rugs or carpets, or across doorways.
  • Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen, bathroom(s), laundry, basement and outdoor areas.

In addition, having working smoke detectors dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Remember to practice a home escape plan with your family.