Wednesday, May 22, 2013

3 Simple Steps to Prevent Home Fires

May is National Electrical Safety Month! Learn how you can keep your home safe with this special guest post from the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

One of the most devastating experiences you can ever face, short of losing a loved one, is losing your home and all of your valuable possessions. Over the last 30 years, the number of household fires has decreased by close to half. However, they are still prevalent, and adults age 65 and over are more than twice as likely as the general population to suffer from injuries due to a home fire.

Electrical failures are the leading cause of most house fires in the U.S. But there are a few simple things you can do in your home to minimize your risk. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers a variety of tools on the resources for older adults section of its website to help keep you safe. To start, here are three easy to do steps you can take right away:
  1. Ensure your home’s electrical wiring and all appliances meet today’s safety standards. 
Older homes are at the highest risk of electrical damage as circuits and appliances are more likely to be worn and outdated. Discard outdated appliances — those that have worn or frayed cords or frequently short out. Also, if your home is more than 40 years old or has undergone a major renovation, have your home electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician to make sure it is compliant with the most recent electrical codes.
  2. Make sure outlets and power cords are properly loaded. 
Overloaded outlets can easily overheat and start a fire. No more than two appliances should occupy a single outlet. Do not use damaged cords and do not run them under rugs or pinch them under furniture, doors or windows. 
  3. Use only Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-certified electrical products.
  4. Electric blankets, space heaters, even Christmas lights should all carry the “UL” label. This indicates that the product has been tested and approved for safety. Be wary of electrical products with counterfeit UL labels. These are often sold at deep discount stores. They may save you money, but they could cost you your safety.
For more information on these and other safety tips, visit and visit the resources for older adults section of the website. We offer resources to help you put together a home safety checklist and fire safety plan to minimize your risk of a home fire. 

Brett C. Brenner is president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit organization funded by the top international electrical manufacturers and testing laboratories, electrical unions and associations, utilities, and consumer groups. Mr. Brenner is also a board member of Underwriters Laboratories Consumer Advisory Council and National Fire Protection Association Educational Messages Advisory Committee. More electrical safety information is available at

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