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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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