SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is educating the public on the importance of electrical safety in an effort to prevent home fires, electrical burns and other serious injuries. Electrical related injuries and burns may result in serious tissue, nerve or muscle damage.
“Electrical injuries and fires are preventable if adults are proactive in making sure that electric equipment and outlets in the home are safe,” said Larry Matkaitis, Illinois State Fire Marshal. “It’s our priority to educate the public about simple steps to prevent electrical burns and other serious injuries from occurring.”
Nearly 1,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of electrical burns. Knowing the seriousness of the burns, seeking medical attention must be immediate. Electrical burns occur when a person is directly exposed to an electrical current, including an alternating current or a direct current. Shock related injuries may vary depending on the level of electrical exposure. Some electrical burns may look minor, but in many cases they can cause internal damage, especially to the heart, muscles or the brain. In those cases, electrical burns could be deadly.
In Illinois, 7,900 electrical related incidents were reported between 2009 and 2013. In 2012, 1,591 cases were reported and these incidents have resulted in 120 injuries, 8 fatalities and approximately $1.4 in property losses.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 47,820 reported home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction in 2007-2011. These fires resulted in 455 civilian deaths, 1,518 civilian injuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
OSFM recommends the following steps to prevent electrical incidents:
• Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
• Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
• In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
• Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so excess extension cords are not needed.
• Follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
• Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
• If outlets or switches feel warm, frequently blow fuses or trip circuits, flicker or dim lights, call a qualified electrician.
• Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.
• Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas.
• Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.
NFPA and OSFM also warn about outdoor electrical dangers that can pose safety risks to children. Adults should inspect areas where children play to identify situations that could potentially turn dangerous. The following are tips to put in practice to avoid any chances of electrical accidents:
• Children should not be allowed to sit on electrical equipment enclosures and boxes. Equipment that has been damaged or not maintained can present a shock hazard.
• Do not play or fly kites near power lines. If a kite gets caught in the power line, let go of the kite immediately.
• If you see power lines on the ground, report it immediately and stay away.
• If there is lightning, seek shelter indoors right away.
• Do not bring items plugged into an electrical outlet near water or a swimming pool. Ask an adult before bringing toys into the pool.
• If you notice electrical equipment in a state of disrepair or damaged, report it to local officials or personnel within the premises.
For more information on electrical burns and fire safety please visit OSFM webpage at: www.sfm.illinois.gov.