Electrical Safety

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Electrical Safety Summary - Click Here

Electrical Safety Checklist - Click Here

Electrical Fire Facts - Click Here

Arc-Fault Circuit Breaker Information - Click Here

Tamper Resistant Electrical Outlet Information - Click Here

Additional Electrical Safety Information - Click Here

Electricity is constantly flowing through the wires in our homes, offices, grocery stores, and restaurants. It is energy that powers our lives. But that power can have a devastating affect if it’s not carefully used and monitored.

Electrical distribution and lighting equipment were involved in an estimated 20,900 reported home structure fires in 2005. These fires resulted in 500 civilian deaths and 1,100 civilian injuries, with $862 million in direct property damage. Lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs (28%) and fixed wiring (22%) accounted for the largest share of fires among major types of electrical distribution equipment. Cords and plugs (39%) accounted for the largest share of civilian deaths. Lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs (29%) accounted for the largest share of civilian injuries.

Electrical problems, such as short circuits, ground faults or overloads can be a factor in fires started by appliances and other products powered by electricity. In 2002-2005, electrical failure modes were cited as contributing factors in roughly one in every seven reported home structure fires, one of every six home fire civilian deaths, and one in every ten home fire civilian injuries.  

To understand how electricity can become dangerous, we must first understand how it works. Very simply, electrical current is a flow of electrical charge through a conductor. Hence, electricity is defined as the movement of charged particles. This current is converted into useful forms like powering out televisions and toaster ovens. But this electrical current also puts our homes at increased risk for fire if not treated with respect.

Protective devices capable of responding to overloads and short circuits, such as circuit breakers, have been available for a number of years. However, newer technologies now provide enhanced protection from arcing or ground faults, which may prevent fires or shock.

One of these technologies is the arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI). AFCIs are electrical safety devices designed to prevent fires caused by dangerous electrical arcs. When an electrical switch is opened or closed, an arc, or discharge of electricity across a circuit, occurs. Unintentional arcs can occur at loose connections or where wires or cords have been damaged. Such arcs can lead to high temperatures and sparking, possibly igniting combustibles. AFCIs protect against fire by continuously monitoring the electrical current in a circuit and shutting off the circuit when unintended arcing occurs. These devices are designed to discriminate between unintended arcing and the type of arcing that occurs when a switch is operated.

The type of AFCI currently available commercially is a next-generation circuit breaker that not only provides the conventional safety functions, but its advanced design also rapidly detects potentially dangerous arcs and disconnects power in the circuit before a fire can start. Fire safety officials throughout the U.S. endorse AFCIs as a significant step forward in electrical fire safety.

Since 1999, AFCIs have been thoroughly field tested. Underwriters Laboratories, the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and many other experts have found AFCIs to be reliable and effective. By eliminating a significant source of electrically related fires, future statistics should demonstrate a reduction in fires of electrical origin.

Fire safety officials recommend the use of AFCIs in all dwellings. In fact, since 2002, the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) has required AFCIs in bedrooms of new residential construction since 2002. The 2008 NEC® requirement for AFCI protection considerably expands this fire prevention technology to the majority of circuits installed in new and renovated homes.

In addition to installing AFCIs and having the wiring in your home checked by a licensed electrician, there are a number of simple things you can do to prevent electrical fires.

Vigilance in the presence of electricity can help prevent electrical fires and keep our community safe. (Your Fire Department) appreciates your help in practicing electrical safety in your home.