According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical equipment was the third leading cause of home fires and the second leading cause of fire deaths in the United States between 1994 and 1998.
To keep you and your family safe
- Always buy appliances that have been rated by independent laboratories such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories).
- Avoid overloading outlets.
- If outlets or switches feel warm, shut off the circuit and have them checked by an electrician.
- Make sure cords are in good condition. Never nail or staple cords. Do not place cords under rugs or furniture.
- If possible, avoid using extension cords or use them only on a temporary basis. Use an extension cord with a higher rating than the appliance you're using it for. Check extension cords frequently for wear. Replace cracked or worn cords with new cords displaying a certification label from an independent testing lab such as UL or ETL on the package and attached to the cord near the plug.
- Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) of a three-prong plug to make it fit a two-prong outlet.
- Don't use higher-wattage bulbs than recommended by the manufacturer in lamps and ceiling fixtures.
- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from combustible materials such as furniture, draperies and rugs. Don't use them in rooms where children are unsupervised. Unplug space heaters when you're not using them. Avoid using space heaters with extension cords; if you must use an extension cord, use a heavy-gauge cord.
- Don't just turn a circuit breaker back on or replace a blown fuse — it could create a fire hazard. Find out what caused the breaker or fuse to cut off first.
- Because halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than lamps with standard bulbs, they've been implicated in a number of fires. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies or other combustible materials. Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room and never use these lamps in children's rooms.
Check your wiring
Have your house wiring checked by a licensed electrician, particularly when moving into an older home whose wiring may not be able to support the electrical demands of modern life. In addition, aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, is a potential fire hazard.
Homeowners should have their electrical wiring inspected if their homes fall into one of the following categories:
- The home is more than 40 years old.
- The home is more than 10 years old, and has had major renovations, additions or new large appliances.
- You are a new owner of a previously owned home.
Most importantly, install smoke detectors and check or change the batteries regularly.
For additional information on electrical safety and other important topics, contact your local district office.