May is Electrical Safety month – electrical fires leading cause of fire deaths in 2014

STOW, MA –  “In 2014, electrical fires were the leading cause of fire deaths in Massachusetts,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, “There were eight fatal fires that took the lives of 15 people in 2014; the most tragic fire was on July 10 in Lowell where four adults and three children died in an electrical fire.”

Preventing Electrical Fires at Home

“May is Electrical Safety Month. Take a few minutes to look around for electrical hazards in your home and correct them,” said State Fire Marshal Coan. “Items such as electrical cords under rugs or pinched behind furniture, overloaded outlets, and laptops and phones charging on beds or sofas can expose you and your family to fire,” he added.

One way to prevent electrical fires is to practice electrical safety. Fires often start when too many things are plugged into a single outlet or circuit overloading them. Another frequent cause is using extension cords, especially with appliances that generate heat like space heaters, irons, and toasters. Extension cords are designed for temporary use, but many people leave them in place permanently and forget about them. A cord can easily become pinched by furniture and over time eventually lead to a fire. Unplug appliances by grasping the plug; don’t pull by the cord. Use the correct wattage light bulbs in lamps and fixtures.

Give Electrical Systems a Tune-Up Every 10 Years

The need to plug many things into a single outlet or reliance on extension cords, are signs to have an electrician review your system. Fire officials recommend having a licensed electrician review a home’s electrical system every ten years. Small upgrades and simple safety checks like making sure outdoor grounds and connections are secure can prevent larger problems.

Know the Warning Signs

“Call your local fire department immediately if you have warning signs such as arcs, sparks, or short circuits,” advises State Fire Marshal Coan. “Other warning signs include hearing a sizzling or buzzing sound or smelling a vague odor of something burning. Immediate attention to these signs can save lives,” he added. Firefighters can use thermal imaging technology to see excessive heat inside the walls.

Call a professional electrician soon if you have any of these warning signs:

  • Frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers;
  • Dim or flickering lights, bulbs that wear out too fast;
  • Overheated plugs, cords or switches;
  • Shock or mild tingle – more than normal static electricity;
  • Loose outlets or unusually warm or faulty outlets or switches.

Hire a Licensed Electrician

“Hire a licensed electrician who knows the code. Resist doing your own electrical work or hiring a handy neighbor or your brother-in-law unless you or they are licensed electricians,” said Coan.

For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 1-877-9 NO FIRE or on-line here.
Media release furnished by Mass Department of Fire Services