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Electrical Safety Tips

Things You and Your Family Should Know About Electrical Safety

Each year:

  • 300-400 people are electrocuted in their homes
  • Approximately 150,000 house fires are traced to electrical issues
  • 12,000-15,000 people are injured in their home by electricity

Facts & figures

  • In 1999-2003, electrical distribution and lighting equipment were involved in an estimated 19,100 reported home structure fires per year. These fires resulted in 140 civilian deaths, 610 civilian injuries and an estimated $349 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Fixed wiring, switches, receptacles and outlets account for the largest share (45%) of fires among major types of electrical distribution equipment, and account for the largest share of civilian fire deaths and injuries.
  • Some type of electrical failure is the leading factor contributing to ignition in every group of electrical distribution equipment products except lighting.
  • Extension cord fires outnumbered fires beginning with attached or unattached power cords by more than two-to-one.

Source: Electrical Distribution and Lighting Equipment Involved in Home Structure Fires, by Erin R. Twomey and Marty Ahrens, October 2006.

Indoors:

  • Never poke anything into an electrical outlet. If young children are in the home or building, put safety caps on unused electrical outlets.
  • Don't run cords under carpets. They can overheat and you cannot see if a cord has become damaged. Shock or fire can result.
  • Don't unplug appliances by pulling on the cord. Grip from the plug and pull to prevent damage to and potential exposure of wires.
  • Appliances with damaged cords increase the risk of electrical shock. Cords that are cut, broken or whose insulation has cracked should be replaced before using the appliance.
  • Water and electricity are a deadly combination. Keep electrical wires and appliances away from water. Use GFCI protected outlets when using appliances or tools near water. Never attempt to put out an electrical fire with water.
  • If you witness someone receiving an electrical shock, call 911. Never touch someone being shocked unless the electricity has been shut off.
  • Always unplug or disconnect power when working on light fixtures or appliances. Never put your finger in a light bulb socket. Disconnect power before attempting to remove a broken bulb.
  • Never use water to put out an electrical fire. Call the fire department. If an electrical appliance is involved, unplug it first if safe to do so. Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher or baking soda to put out the fire.

Outdoors:

  • Head inside a car or building when you see lightning. Avoid wide open spaces and tall trees since lightning is attracted to the tallest object in a given area. Get out of the water if swimming outside when it's lightning.
  • Treat overhead electrical wires with great respect. Choose wide open areas for flying kites, balloons and other toys. And, never intentially throw objects at or touch power lines or equipment. The voltage they carry can transfer and kill you.
  • Do not attempt to trim tree branches or cut down trees near power lines. Call the power company or a licensed contractor. The voltage carried by overhead wires can travel along objects that come in contact with them and be deadly.
  • Before proceeding with digging deeper than turning the soil in your garden, call your electrical company to ensure no buried cables are in the area. Striking buried lines can cause serious injury or death.

Safety tips:

  • Replace or repair loose or frayed cords on all electrical devices.
  • In homes with small children, unused wall sockets and extension-cord receptacles should have plastic safety covers.
  • 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, shut off the circuit and have them checked by an electrician.
  • When possible, avoid the use of "cube taps" and other devices that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.

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