Nearly 50,000 home fires involved electrical failures

(KATV, Source: NFPA) - Electrical fires remainone of the top causes of home structure fires,according to a new report by the NationalFire Protection Association (NFPA). The Home ElectricalFires report estimates that an electrical failure or malfunction factoredin 45,000 to 55,000 home structure fires reported to the U.S. fire departmentsevery year since 2000.

These fires, which account for 13 percent of total home structurefires, resulted in annual losses of 455 civilian deaths, 1,500 civilianinjuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage during 2007-2011. Any typeof equipment that uses electrical power can have an electrical failure ormalfunction. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment accounted for 48percent of home electrical fires in 2007-2011. Arcing appears to account formost home electrical fires, outnumbering overheating by at least 2-to-1 and asmuch as 7-to-1.

NFPA is marking National Electrical Safety Month (May) byreminding the public to be aware of the risks associated with the use ofelectricity, and providing safety tips and information toassist individuals in taking steps to reduce the riskof home electrical fires.

Other key findings in the report have to do specifically with homestructure fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment,including:

  • 63 percent involved wiring and related equipment.
  • 74 percent cited some type of electrical failure or malfunction.
  • Nearly half (44 percent) of civilian deaths were caused by fires that began in the bedroom, living room, family room, or den.
  • Wire or cable insulation was the item first ignited in 32 percent of electrical distribution or lighting equipment home structure fires.

"Electrical fires are a risk that homeowners should bear in mindwhen reviewing fire dangers," says Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president ofcommunications. "By taking early action to eliminate electrical hazards in yourhousehold and following safety guidelines, the chances of having a homeelectrical fire can be significantly reduced."

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.