Hidden Dangers and Quick Tips to Keep Properties Safe from Electrical Fires

By Bill Grande, Senior Director of Safety, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.

It’s officially Fire Prevention Week (October 9 – 15, 2016), a regularly recognized campaign organized by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to stress the importance of fire safety and preventative measures for home owners. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is actually the longest running public health and safety observance on record. With this in mind, the NFPA and various organizations across the country continue to leverage this week as a way to raise awareness around fire prevention, especially heading into the winter months when the US tends to see an increase in residential fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) September 2015 Structure Fires Report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 357,000 home fires per year between 2009-2013, causing 2,470 deaths and $6.9 billion in damage. The U.S. Fire Administration website reports that home electrical fires account for 51,000 fires each year, resulting in nearly 500 deaths, over 1,400 injuries and 1.3 billion in property damage.

Heating and cooking equipment are the primary causes of accidental home fires, while electrical systems are the third leading cause. Too often we take our commonly used applications for granted, and don’t realize some of the hidden dangers and technicalities associated with electrical outlets and distribution systems throughout our homes. Here are a few of the hidden dangers and quick tips to make sure you and your family stay safe going into the winter months and all year long:

Regularly check your outlets, cords and fuses. Although there are several ways to recognize potential risks of an electrical fire, most homeowners are not aware of the signs or what to look for. For example, it is important to keep an eye out for discolored or warm outlets, which are signs of an electrical failure or malfunction that could lead to a potential electrical fire.

Other signs of potential electrical issues include flickering lights, regularly blown fuses and/or a constant smell of a burning or rubbery odor from appliances. It’s also important to remember to use extension cords for temporary needs only, never run cords under rugs or pinched beneath furniture and do not overload electrical outlets with multiple devices.

That said, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) an estimated 50% of electrical fires that occur every year can be prevented with the installation of Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs). AFCIs, like Leviton’s SmartlockPro® AFCI Outlet, detect a wide range of arc faults. An arc fault creates a discharge of electricity between conductors that can translate into heat, potentially triggering an electrical fire. An AFCI outlet can detect an arc fault and will shut off power to help prevent ignition of a fire. Still, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared with the right preventative measures, as well. In the case that a fire should occur, equipment such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are important to have on-hand to help prevent further damage or injury.

With electrical systems powering every aspect of our lives – to the point that we often overlook their hazards – it is critical to be mindful of the preventative measures and hidden dangers that are so pervasive around us. This week, take the time to let members of your community association know the preventative measures they can take to protect their facilities and homes from fires while also reminding friends and families of the importance of fire safety.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety.

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