Wake Forest, NC— Each year, electrical failures and malfunctions cause 43,900 home fires, resulting in 438 deaths, 1,430 injuries, and $1.47 billion in property damage. But many home electrical fires can be prevented simply by understanding basic electrical safety principles and following safe practices.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, which was held October 6-12, focused on kitchen fires. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have teamed up to offer safety tips to help protect your home and family:

– Safety should always be the top priority when working with electricity. ESFI recommends that a qualified, licensed electrician perform all home electrical work in compliance with local and national safety standards.

– Consider having your circuit breakers replaced with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), which provide enhanced electrical fire protection by detecting dangerous arcing conditions.

– Make sure all electrical panel circuits are properly labeled. Always replace fuses or circuit breakers with the correct size and amperage.

– Keep the area around the electrical panel clear so you can easily shut off power in an emergency.

– Every month, use the TEST button to check that ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) at outlets and AFCIs are working properly.

– Be mindful of warning signs of an electrical problem, such as outlets and switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling, or buzzing noises.

– Regularly check cords, outlets, switches, and appliances for signs of damage. Do not use damaged electrical devices.

– Do not use extension cords on a permanent basis, and never use them with space heaters or air conditioners.

– Avoid overloading outlets.

– Do not use lightbulbs that exceed the recommended wattage of the light fixture or lamp.

Despite your best efforts at prevention, a fire could still happen. Follow these tips to make sure your family is prepared to make a safe escape:

– Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.

– Test smoke alarms every month by pushing the TEST button.

– Create a family fire escape plan that includes two ways out of each room.

– Pick an easy-to-find meeting place outside, a safe distance from your home.

– Practice your escape plan by having at least two fire drills a year. One fire drill should be at night while your family is sleeping.

– If anyone in your household is deaf, or if your own hearing is diminished, consider installing a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a fire emergency.

Visit www.esfi.org for more home electrical safety information and for ESFI’s Fire Prevention Week resources.

— Electrical Safety Foundation International

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