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Department of Public Safety

Electrical Emergencies

The problem:

During a typical year, electrical problems account for 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, 2,305 injuries, and $868 million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances.

The facts:

December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and an increase in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.

The cause:

Most electrical fires result from problems with fixed wiring such as, faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Problems with cords and plugs such as, extension and appliance cords also cause many home fires.

Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electrical cords such as, overloading circuits, poor maintenance, and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.

The home appliances most often involved in electrical fires are electric stoves, ovens, dryers, heaters, televisions, and radios.

Safety precautions:

  • 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 don’t overload them.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special attention to appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • When buying appliances make sure they have been tested and approved by (UL) Underwriters Laboratory standard for safety.
  • Do not allow children to play around appliances such as heaters, irons, and hair dryers.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other combustibles at least three feet away from all heaters.
  • If an appliance has a three prong plug use it in a three slot outlet, do not alter it to make it fit in another outlet.
  • Never overload extension cords or outlets.
  • Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker. Use safety closures to “child proof” electrical outlets.
  • Check electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. Replace cords that are frayed, cracked or worn. Replace tool if it causes even small electrical shock, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
  • Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home fire escape plan frequently with your family.