Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in an estimated 46,500 home structure fires in the U.S. in 2010, accounting for 13 percent of reported home fires.
These fires resulted in 420 deaths, 1,520 injuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association's Home Electrical Fires Report.
National Fire Protection Association is marking National Electrical Safety Month, this month, by reminding the public to be aware of the risks associated with the use of electricity and providing safety tips and information to assist individuals in taking steps to reduce the risk of home electrical fires.
"The risk of electrical fire may not always be on your mind, but it probably should be - there are actions that can be taken to eliminate electrical hazards in your household and safety guidelines that can be followed to reduce the chances of having a home electrical fire," said Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association's vice president of communications.
Any type of equipment that uses electrical power can have an electrical failure or malfunction.
In 2005-2009, nearly half of the fires started by electrical failures or malfunctions involved some type of electrical distribution or lighting equipment such as wiring, outlets, extension cords, and fuse or circuit breakers, per year.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Some type of electrical failure or malfunction was cited as a factor contributing to ignition for 73 percent of electrical distribution or lighting equipment home structure fires.
- One-third (31 percent) of civilian deaths in these incidents began in the living room, family room, or den.
- Wire or cable insulation is what ignited first in 31 percent of electrical distribution or lighting equipment home structure fires.
"National Electrical Safety Month is the perfect reminder that it's time to review home electrical safety and put a plan into place that can be followed all year," said Carli.
National Fire Protection Association is offering the following electrical safety tips:
- Replace damaged or loose electrical cords.
- Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
- In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
- Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
- Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
- If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.
- Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.
- Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen, bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas.
- Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.
- When you are buying, selling, or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a qualified electrician.