Electrical failures or malfunctions are factors in more than 46,000 home fires

Published on April 30, 2012
NFPA marks National Electrical Safety Month with tips to reduce risk of electrical fires

April 30, 2012 – Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in an estimated 46,500 home structure fires reported to the U.S. fire departments 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 (NFPA) Home Electrical Fires Report.

NFPA is marking National Electrical Safety Month (May) 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.

Video: Watch NFPA's Dan Doofus learn important lessons about electrical safety.

According to Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Communications, “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.”

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.

NFPA 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.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

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Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275