Winter months call for electrical fire safety


Electrical fires in homes account for over 26,000 residential fires annually, resulting in 280 deaths and over $1 billion in property loss in the United States.

“Traditionally, we see more electrical fires occur in Washington State during the winter months,” said State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy. “Loss of life and property resulting from electrical fires can be avoidable if you exercise a few simple steps.”

Duffy suggests the following guidelines to help ensure that you and your family are safe from shock hazards and electrical fires this winter:

Safety Tips

• Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Replace any worn or damaged appliance cords immediately. Do not try to repair them.

• Buy only appliances that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

• Appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord. If you must use an extension cord, use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection and have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

• Unplug small appliances when not in use.

• If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.

• Replace any electrical device if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.

• Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.

• Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture, under rugs and carpets, or across doorways.

• Extension cords are for temporary use only. Have a qualified electrician determine if additional circuits or wall outlets are needed.

• Electrical work should be done only by a qualified electrician. Call an electrician if you have any of the following: Recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers; a tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance; discolored or warm wall outlets or switches; a burning smell or rubbery odor coming from an appliance; flickering lights; sparks from a wall outlet; cracked or broken wall outlets.

Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, and training Washington State’s firefighters.