Electrical Fire Safety

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During a typical year in the United States, home electrical problems account for more than 90,000 fires and more than 700 deaths, and result in an estimated $700 million in property losses. Overloaded electrical outlets and the improper use of extension cords are prime causes of residential electrical fires. To help prevent electrical fires in your home, please consider the following recommendations: 

  • Only use electrical appliances, surge protectors, and power strips that have been tested and approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Don't overload electrical outlets. Use only one major (high-wattage) appliance on the same circuit at any one time.
  • Avoid the use of "cube taps" and other devices that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle. If several appliances must be plugged into one outlet (like for a computer or stereo system) use Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) approved power strips with internal circuit breakers to lessen the likelihood of overloading the circuit.
  • Never use extension cords as permanent wiring. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under rugs or carpeting.
  • Replace cracked or frayed appliance cords.
  • If an appliance feels too hot, smokes, or gives off a funny odor, unplug it immediately and have it serviced or replaced.
  • Whenever possible, unplug electrical appliances after each use.
  • To minimize the risk of electrical shock, install ground-fault interrupter (GFI) outlets in all kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor areas, basements and garages.
  • In homes with small children, electrical outlets should have plastic safety covers.
  • If outlets or switches feel warm, or if sparks are observed coming from outlets or switches, shut off the circuit and have them checked by an electrician.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn. Avoid the use of halogen lamps as halogen bulbs burn extremely hot and are a common source of fires.
  • Only use bulbs that are the correct wattage for lamps and light fixtures.
  • Never use water to attempt to extinguish fires involving energized electrical equipment.
  • At a minimum, install at least one smoke detector on every level of your home. For more information about smoke detectors, please visit our information about smoke detectors web page.
  • A home safety check can help you identify potential fire and life safety hazards in your home and provide you with valuable advice on how to mitigate those hazards. To request a free home safety check, please visit our home safety checks web page.

For more information about electrical fire safety, send an email to our Life Safety Officer or call 703.385.7830.