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Home Electricity: Important Safety Precautions

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that electrical problems result in 67,800 fires during a typical year in American homes, claiming 485 lives and leading to 2,305 injuries. Death or injury can also result from faulty or inappropriately used home electrical wiring and appliances.

Some simple precautions can significantly reduce the risk of death or injury due to home electricity.

Simple Precautions to Safeguard Your Family

  • Check your home's visible wiring for signs of damage. Wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances. Most of your home wiring is not visible, however. An electrician can give your home an electrical health check to make sure there are no hidden problems. If your lights flicker or the power in your home goes out or a lot, you should certainly have an electrician inspect your wiring.
  • Check your electrical appliances. Electrical fires in the home are most commonly related to televisions, electric stoves and ovens, clothes dryers, central heating units, and radios. If these or other appliances get very hot when in use or short out easily, they might have an electrical fault. Electrical appliances and products should carry a logo such as UL, OSHA or ETL, indicating that they have been independently tested for safety.
  • Check appliance cords for signs of wear and tear and replace them if they are damaged or frayed. Never run electrical cords under rugs or across high traffic areas, never knot cords, or place furniture on them.
  • Switch off electrical outlets, light switches, or plugs immediately if they become hot to the touch. Call an electrician to check the outlet.
  • Don't overload electrical extension cords or sockets. This is a major cause of electrical fires in the home.
  • Never allow electrical appliances, electrical wiring, or electrical outlets or switches to get wet or damp. Make sure you have a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) installed in any electrical outlet in the bathroom. If your walls are damp or you have a burst or leaking water pipe, call an electrician to check the affected area for safety.
  • Keep heaters at least three feet away from potentially combustible items such as curtains and certain furniture.
  • Always "child-proof" electrical outlets with safety closures and never allow children to play around electrical appliances.
  • Install a smoke alarm, check it regularly to make sure it is working, and have a home escape plan that you practice frequently with your family.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has produced a "Home Electrical Safety Checklist" that provides room-by-room electrical safety advice.

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