Author(s): Lorraine Carli. Published on November 1, 2020.

First Person

A new Faces of Fire campaign uses personal stories to bring awareness to electrical hazards

Since I came to NFPA nearly 15 years ago, it has been my job to direct the organization’s advocacy efforts aimed at reducing loss from fire, electrical, and other hazards. I spend a lot of time looking at numbers and trends to figure out what has the potential for the greatest impact. As we often hear, data is king. It provides the statistical underpinning for the decisions we make.

But I also spend considerable time talking with people who have been impacted by catastrophic events—those who have been injured, who have lost loved ones, who have responded, and many others who carry the impact of seeing the effects of fire and other tragedies. If data is king, personal stories transcend royalty. They bring a whole new dimension to our work, as well as the motivation to want to change the statistics in a positive way.

With this in mind, NFPA recently launched Faces of Fire™/Electrical, an awareness campaign focused on electrical hazards created in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Similar to our original Faces of Fire campaign, the electrical series gives the victims of electrical accidents a chance to tell their personal stories and send a powerful message about the dangers that electricity can pose.

The numbers are striking. According to NFPA research, electrical failures are the second-leading cause of home fires in the United States. Additionally, fire departments respond to an annual average of more than 400,000 non-fire electrical incidents. Almost 2,000 workers in the US are injured in electrical accidents each year, and between 2012 and 2016 a total of more than 700 people died from exposure to electricity at work. While these workplace-related numbers began trending downward in 2007, they have leveled off since 2012.

The stats make a strong point, but I expect the faces behind these numbers will have an even greater influence.

One of those faces is Sam Matagi, a former power lineman in Colorado. Sam lost both of his hands in a horrific on-the-job electrical accident in 2010 when a scrap of wire he was holding contacted a live wire and sent nearly 15,000 volts of electricity surging through his body.

In the years since his accident, Sam has made it his personal mission to support others with burn injuries and has become a staunch safety advocate. In his Faces of Fire video, Sam talks about actions that can be taken in the workplace to prevent these types of accidents and spare others the excruciating pain he has experienced. Sam has also become a volunteer with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Despite this life-altering event, Sam wants to help others move beyond their injuries. “There is a power to overcome their accident and they can tap into that,” he says of survivors. “It’s called resilience.”

Sam’s experience is detailed in one of six video that have been created so far as part of the Faces of Fire Electrical Hazards Awareness campaign, and one of two that were released during the launch in late September. Each of these videos is a powerful reminder of the importance of taking action—at home and in the workplace—to stop these accidents from happening. Additional videos will continue to roll out over the next few months and will be posted on a dedicated webpage at

In addition to the videos, the Faces of Fire/Electrical webpage includes more in-depth stories from the people featured, as well as resources for electrical and non-electrical workers, fire safety advocates, and the general public to learn more about electrical safety and how to advocate for actions that can help reduce loss.

We greatly appreciate the courage of those who are lending their stories to this campaign. With their help, we hope that there will be fewer stories to tell in the future.

Lorraine Carli is vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. Illustration: Michael Hoeweler