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Preventing Electrical Fires

Identify and address issues before they become hazards

An estimated 37,900 home fires that involved electrical distribution and lighting equipment were reported in 2014, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in approximately 530 deaths, 1,290 injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage.

Take steps to help prevent accidents by identifying possible safety problems before they occur. Your electric cooperative offers the following checklist to help find possible issues with your electrical system or appliances before they become a fire hazard in your home:

Electrical outlets: Check for loose-fitting plugs and loose wall receptacles. Replace missing or broken wall plates. If you have young children, install tamper-resistant outlets. Avoid overloading outlets with adapters and too many appliance plugs.

Electrical wiring: If an outlet is not working, it might indicate unsafe wiring. Have an electrician check it out. Also check for loose wires and loose lighting fixtures. Listen for popping or sizzling sounds behind walls. If light switches are hot to the touch or lights spark and flicker, immediately shut them off at the circuit breaker and contact a qualified electrician to make repairs.

Ground-fault circuit interrupters: Make sure GFCIs are installed in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, workshop, basement, garage and outdoor outlets. GFCIs help protect against electrical shock. Use the test and reset buttons at least monthly to ensure that they are working properly.

Arc-fault circuit interrupters: Consider having AFCIs installed in your home. An AFCI installed in a circuit breaker monitors the flow of electricity throughout your home. If the AFCI detects any abnormality, it will shut the system off, preventing a fire.

Plugs: Do not remove the grounding pin (third prong) to make a plug fit into a two-prong outlet.

Cords: Make sure cords are not frayed or cracked, placed under rugs, tightly wrapped around any object, or located in high-traffic areas. Do not nail or staple them to walls, floors or other objects.

Extension cords: These are not intended as permanent household wiring, so use them on a temporary basis only. If you find you need more electrical outlets, talk to an electrician about installing more so you will not need to use extension cords.

Lightbulbs: Verify that your lightbulbs are the intended wattage for the lamp or fixture they are in, and make sure they are screwed in securely so they do not overheat.

Appliances and electronics: If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, or has given you an electrical shock, immediately unplug it and have it repaired or replaced. Use surge protectors to protect expensive electronics. Make sure your appliances and electronics are placed in dry locations. If an appliance has been water-damaged, replace it.

Circuit breakers or fuses: Check that circuit breakers are working properly. Fuses should be properly rated for the circuit they are protecting.

Service capacity: If fuses blow or trip frequently, you might need to increase the capacity of your electrical service or add new branch circuits. Contact a qualified electrician.