June 20, 2003
CPSC, ESFI Warn Consumers About
Electrical Hazards In The Home
"Inspect and Protect!" Campaign Encourages
Homeowners to Safeguard Homes
-Summertime increases the demand for electricity and raises the risk of fire
in homes with older or damaged wiring systems. Air conditioning equipment,
electric grills, and attic fans are some of the seasonal appliances that can
place added stress and strain on a home's electrical wiring and cause a
potentially tragic fire.
Since electricity is uniquely unforgiving and can cause serious injuries or
death, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Electrical Safety
Foundation International are joining together to encourage consumers to
protect their homes from electrical problems.
Between 1994 and 1998, the CPSC estimates that there were over 360,000
residential fires each year, of which over 123,000 were related to
electrical distribution or appliances and equipment, and another 15,000 were
related to heating and air conditioning systems. These electrical fires
caused an estimated average of 910 deaths, nearly 7,000 injuries and nearly
$1.7 billion in property damage each year. Many of these incidents could
have been prevented by having an electrical inspection of the house to find
This summer, CPSC and ESFI are encouraging homeowners to: 1) have an
electrical inspection conducted for homes 40 years and older, for homes 10
years and older with major renovations or new appliances added, or that have
been resold; 2) learn the potential hazards posed by aluminum wiring systems
and contact CPSC if your home is among the two million built with aluminum
wiring between the late 1960s and early 1970s; and 3) consider installing
arc fault circuit interrupters in place of ordinary circuit breakers,
especially if your home is over 40 years old. AFCIs are new technology
designed to prevent electrical fires by sensing unseen electrical arcing.
AFCIs are particularly important where wiring may have degraded with age.
"The Commission has been working to prevent electrical fires for decades. We
are currently working with other federal agencies and safety organizations
on a major research project involving aged electrical wiring," said CPSC
Chairman Hal Stratton. "Our best advice for homeowners is to hire a licensed
electrical inspector or electrician to identify and correct hidden
electrical hazards before they become tragedies."
"Most of us are unaware of how dangerous electricity can truly be within our
homes," said Michael G. Clendenin, ESFI executive director. "As summer
begins, ESFI's goal is to inform consumers of common household electrical
hazards and empower them to protect their families and homes. We hope
homeowners will come to regard electrical safety as an essential part of
routine home maintenance."
It is important for homeowners to understand the severity of an electrical
wiring fire, as it often begins behind a wall, in a basement or in the attic
where the fire can spread throughout the home before setting off the smoke
alarm or becoming evident to occupants. This reduces the amount of time
available to escape a burning building.
Below are additional safety tips to help homeowners create the safest home
Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every floor outside sleeping areas
and in every bedroom, and are in good working order.
Look for telltale signs of electrical problems such as dimming of lights,
frequent circuit breaker trips or blown fuses.
Ask a qualified electrician if your home would benefit from AFCI protection,
especially during inspections of older homes or upgrades to electrical
Limit the use of extension cords, particularly cords used to power room air
Use light bulbs that are the proper wattage for the fixture - higher wattage
bulbs can degrade the wires in and around the fixture.
Founded in 1994, ESFI, formerly the National Electrical Safety Foundation,
is the nation's only non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to
promoting electrical safety in the home, school and workplace. A registered
501(c)(3) organization funded by the nation's top electrical manufacturers,
independent testing laboratories, electrical unions and associations,
utilities and consumer groups, ESFI sponsors National Electrical Safety
Month each May, and engages in public education campaigns and proactive
media relations to help reduce property damage, injury and death due to
electrical accidents. For more information and safety tips, please visit: