Nearly 3,000 people continue to die in fires each year, with most of those deaths occurring in homes,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “The vast majority of home fire deaths are preventable, and working smoke alarms play a big role in helping reduce those numbers.”
“Smoke alarms can make a life-saving difference in a fire, but they need to be working,” said Carli. “Unfortunately, many home fire deaths result from fires where a smoke alarm is present but does not operate. This year, we’re trying to motivate people to test their smoke alarms each month to make sure they’re working properly.”
Since these small, unobtrusive, but life-saving devices have become such a fixture in homes across the country, it’s easy to take for granted that they work properly. The following tips on testing your smoke alarms and other guidelines will help protect you and your family:
- There should be at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home (including the basement), outside all sleeping areas and in every bedroom.
- For smoke alarms that include a 10-year non-replaceable battery, replace the entire smoke alarm if it begins to “chirp,” indicating that the battery is running low. For smoke alarms that use regular batteries, replacing the batteries once a year is recommended, or before then if the alarm begins to chirp.
- All smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years or sooner if they don’t respond properly when tested.
- For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected, so that when one alarm sounds, they all do.
Two-thirds of all electrical fires begin in plugs or cords on appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners or lamps. Frayed cords expose the electrical wires that spark on contact with each other or anything that can ground the electrical current.
Overloaded electrical outlets are one of the major causes of residential fires.
When too many lights and appliances are attached to the electrical system, it will overload and then overheat. The heat causes the wire insulation to melt and ignite, resulting in an electrical fire.
Special attention should be given to large appliances that use high wattage, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, irons, microwave ovens, dishwashers, and deep fryers. Avoid plugging them into the same outlet or circuit.
Most electrical fires can be prevented.
Take the proper safety measures and regularly check your electrical appliances, cords and outlets.
- Use light bulbs with the appropriate wattage for the size of the light fixture. A bulb of too high wattage may lead to overheating and fire.
- Extension cords are only for temporary use. Most cannot carry as much current as permanent wiring and tend to overheat. If using an extension cord, be sure it is designed to carry the intended load.
- Never use an extension cord for large appliances such as air conditioners.
- Protect all electrical cord from damage. Do not run cords under carpets or rugs, around objects or hang from nails.
- When purchasing an electrical appliance such as a toaster or coffee maker, be sure that the equipment has the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Mark. The UL mark shows that the product has been safety tested.
- Inspect appliances regularly to make sure they operate properly. If an appliance begins to operate with a different smell, or makes unusual sounds or the cord feels warm to touch, pull the plug and discontinue use. If burning or smoking occurs from the appliance, call the Fire Department (911).
- Never use an appliance with a damaged cord. Be sure to use three-pronged electrical devices in three pronged outlets. If three-prong outlets are not available in your home, purchase a three-prong adapter from any hardware store.
- Give televisions, stereos and computers plenty of air space clearance so they will not overheat.
- To prevent overloading, never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at once or “piggyback” extra appliances on extension cords or wall outlets. Use only outlets designed to handle multiple plugs.
All wiring systems have circuit breakers or fuses that disconnect power when circuits become over loaded. This is a safety feature to prevent overheating. When a fuse or circuit breaker trips, find the cause and correct it. Never use oversized fuses or foil wrap a fuse or substitute a fuse with a penny. This will cancel the safety device designed to prevent overheating and cause a fire.
If your electrical outlet is hot to the touch, unplug all appliances and have the wiring inspected as soon as possible.