In honor of Fire Prevention Week, October 9 – 15, EEI encourages customers to take a moment to think about using electricity safely in your home. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) established Fire Prevention Week to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow belonging to a Mrs. Catherine O'Leary kicked over an oil lamp in her barn. This set the barn, and then the whole city of Chicago, on fire.
While electric light bulbs have long since replaced oil lamps, the need to protect your home and family against fire remains very important. The typical home now has, on average, almost 25 electronic products—99 percent of which must be plugged in or recharged. And, over the next 25 years, the nation’s electricity use is expected to grow by 31 percent. As we enjoy all the great things that electricity powers, it is important to remember some simple safety tips when using appliances and electric devices.
Inside the Home
- Don’t overload electrical outlets. Too many items plugged into one outlet is a fire and shock hazard.
- Make sure that your electrical products are genuine and carry the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal of safety approval. Bargain-priced electrical products may be cheap because they are counterfeit or defective.
- Keep electrical appliances such as radios, hairdryers, and toasters away from sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Water and electricity don’t mix, and can cause serious injury.
- In areas of the home where water may come into contact with electrical products, such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen, and basement, install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles in place of standard outlets. The GFCI protects you from electrical shock in case an appliance gets wet. Also, test GFCI(s) every month to ensure they are in working order.
- If there are children in the house, be sure that all electrical outlets have safety covers.
- Large window air conditioning units should have their own separate electrical circuit so the system is not overloaded.
- Replace any lamp whose cord is damaged or cracked, and always turn lamps off when you leave the room for an extended period of time.
- If you have a rechargeable battery, be sure to use the proper battery charger intended for the size and type of battery you have.
- Unplug electronics once they are charged, and unplug battery chargers or power adapters when they are disconnected from an appliance. Even when turned off, many electrical products continue to draw a small amount of electricity.
- Unplug an electrical appliance before attempting to fix it.
- When unplugging an appliance, don’t pull on the chord. This can damage the insulation and cause shock or a fire. Instead, pull from the plug.
Outside the Home
- Stay away from downed power lines. Always assume they are ‘live’ and, therefore, dangerous.
- Be sure to locate power lines before you begin chores such as cleaning gutters or trimming a tree. Always keep ladders away from power lines.
- Do not fly kites or toss objects around power lines. It can cause damage to the lines and possibly result in electrocution.
- If your vehicle comes into contact with power lines, the best thing to do is wait for emergency personnel to arrive. If you must exit, jump out with both feet together to a clear area and move away carefully.
- For more information about keeping safe around electricity, visit your electric company’s Web site.
- Visit NFPA's Web site to download a free fire safety check list for your home, along with a quiz to check you fire safety IQ.
- Visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International's Web site for a wide variety of free information on using electricity safely in your home.