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Winter and Disaster Prep

Take 3 Steps to Eliminate Electrical Fires This Winter

Photo: Courtesy of Nikola Jelenkovic

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, with ranges or cooktops causing 62 percent of home fires. With the holiday season and cold weather in full swing, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is promoting cooking safety, decorating safety and safe home heating to prevent electrical fires, injuries and electrocutions.

1. Stick to code

While Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) have been required by the National Electrical Code since the 1970s, any home built before then could be lacking these safety devices. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 50 percent of electrocutions could have been prevented by GFCIs. Homeowners can protect their families from electric shock and electrocution by ensuring that GFCIs are installed in locations where electricity and water could come in contact, such as in the kitchen. When cooking, fires can be prevented by ensuring that your oven and stovetop are clean and free of grease and dust, and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

2. Decorate smart

Holiday decorations are intended to spread joy throughout the season, but when installed or used incorrectly, they can cause severe consequences. While it may be tempting to purchase inexpensive decorations, ESFI urges the public only to purchase electrical decorations from reputable retailers that are approved by a nationally recognized testing lab such as UL, Intertek or CSA. Devices without the mark of these organizations could be counterfeit and could ignite a fire.

3. Don’t overload circuits

Many existing homes simply can’t handle the demands of today’s electrical appliances and devices. The danger of overloading circuits during the winter season increases when homeowners begin using space heaters and generators. ESFI reminds consumers never to plug a space heater into an extension cord, which could overheat and result in a fire. Space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall outlet that is not shared with any other electrical devices.

This holiday season, consider having a qualified electrician inspect your home and heating equipment for any electrical hazards.  

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