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Safety Tips from the Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council

Electrical Safety

Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 200 Americans each year and injure 1,500 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. There are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from electrical fires.

The problem

During a typical year, home appliance and wiring problems account for 49,000 fires, hundreds of deaths and $670 million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances.

The facts

December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months, which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.

The cause

Home appliances: Most electrical fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. In urban areas, however, problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords, are the primary causes of home electrical fires. Electric stoves are involved in 53 percent of home appliance-related fires. However, these fires are mostly the result of careless cooking rather than the stove's malfunction. Electric stoves and fixed heating units cause the most residential fire deaths, while electric stoves and portable heaters are the leading cause of residential fire injuries.

Electrical wiring: In urban areas, faulty wiring accounts for 28 percent of residential electrical fires. Nearly 30 percent of home electrical wiring fires can be traced to the misuse of electric cords, such as overloading circuits, poor maintenance and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.

Safety precautions


Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212