Electrical Safety At Home

As an MEA member, you can support electrical safety at home by doing these things:

Backup Generators

Generators pose serious hazards when not used properly. Make sure you know how to use one safely for backup energy. If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Learn more about backup generators. See Power Outages page for more information.

Preventing Electrical Fires

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a number of tips to for preventing electrical fires.

  • Do not allow children to play in proximity to small or large electric appliances.
  • Replace any tools that put off even mild electric shocks.
  • Replace any light switches that have a tendency to flicker.
  • Replace any light switches that are hot to the touch.
  • Avoid overloading extension cords, sockets and plugs.
  • Do not ever force a three-prong plug into a two-receptacle socket.
  • Know where fuse boxes and circuit breakers are located as well as how to properly operate them.
  • Never attempt electrical repairs or rewiring without proper certification and experience.
  • Do not put water on an electrical fire; use a fire extinguisher instead.

Even though electricity is commonplace, there is still quite a bit of danger associated with improper use. Carefully observe all safety measures when using electricity to keep yourself – and your family – safe.

Surge Protectors and Extension Cords

  • Do not overload extension cords or surge protectors (power strips).
  • Do not run them through water or snow on the ground.
  • Extension cords are not permanent wiring.
  • Do not run cords through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors.
  • Cords should not be under carpet or rugs. When a cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which is a fire hazard.
  • Do not plug more than one small appliance into a single extension cord.
  • Use of multiple extension cords in your home indicates that you have too few outlets in the needed locations. Consider having additional outlets installed where you need them.
  • Make sure the extension cord or power strip you use is rated for the electrical appliance to be plugged in, and is marked for either indoor or outdoor use.
  • The appliance or tool that you are using the cord with will have a wattage rating on it. Match this up with your extension cord, and do not use a cord that has a lower rating.
  • Never use a cord that is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn.
  • Use extension cords with polarized and/or three-prong plugs.
  • Never substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.

Faulty and Aging Electrical Appliances

  • It’s important that any appliances in your home are approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or another comparable consumer laboratory. More Information About UL
  • Follow appliance instructions and do not attempt at home repairs or upgrades.
  • Check cords regularly for frays, cracks or kinks, including power tool cords, holiday lights and extension cords.

Tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles

What are tamper-resistant electrical receptacles?

As of 2014, the National Electrical Code will require new and renovated dwellings to have tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. These receptacles have spring-loaded shutters that close off the contact openings, or slots, of the receptacles. When a plug is inserted into the receptacle, both springs are compressed and the shutters then open, allowing for the metal prongs to make contact to create an electrical circuit. Because both springs must be compressed at the same time, the shutters do not open when a child attempts to insert an object into only one contact opening, and there is no contact with electricity. Tamper- resistant receptacles are an important next step to making the home a safer place for children.

Why require tamper-resistant electrical receptacles?
Each year, approximately 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick items into the slots of electrical receptacles. It is estimated that there are six to 12 child fatalities a year related to this.

More information from NFPA

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFC OutletsI)

From the Consumer Protection Safety Commission

A ground fault circuit interrupter, called a GFCI or GFI, is an inexpensive electrical device that can either be installed in your electrical system or built into a power cord to protect you from severe electrical shocks. GFCIs have played a key role in reducing electrocutions. Greater use of GFCIs could further reduce electrocutions and mitigate thousands of electrical burn and shock injuries still occurring in and around the home each year.

Ground fault protection is integrated into GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers for installation into your electrical system, especially for circuit outlets in particularly vulnerable areas such as where electrical equipment is near water. Portable GFCIs are also available to provide on-the-spot ground fault protection even if a GFCI is not installed on the circuit.

The GFCI is designed to protect people from severe or fatal electric shocks but because a GFCI detects ground faults, it can also prevent some electrical fires and reduce the severity of other fires by interrupting the flow of electric current.

Some GFCI requirements (and effective date):

Receptacles:

  • Outdoors (since 1973)
  • Bathrooms (since 1975)
  • Garages (since 1978)
  • Kitchens (since 1987)
  • Crawl spaces and unfinished basements (since 1990)
  • Wet bar sinks (since 1993)
  • Laundry and utility sinks (since 2005)

Also consider portable GFCI protection:

  • Whenever operating electrically-powered garden equipment (mower, hedge trimmer, edger, etc.)
  • With electric tools (drills, saws, sanders, etc.) for do-it-yourself work in and around the house
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Every year, thousands of fires result from improper usage of surge protectors, power strips and electrical cords.

Safety Resources