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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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Electrical and Fire Safety

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Fire and Burn Prevention | Electrical Safety | Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Fire and Burn Prevention

Fires and burns are the second leading cause of household injuries.  Each year nearly 4,000 people in the U.S. die in home fires.  Thousands of others are injured as a result of fires or accidental burns.  Most of these deaths involve children and elderly adults.  Kitchen accidents, space heaters, chimney fires, faulty electrical wiring, and cigarettes are common causes.  Check your home for fire hazards.  Install smoke alarms on every floor.

Tips on Fire Safety

  • Dispose of cigarettes, cigars, and matches carefully.

  • Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home and test them often.

  • Plan two escape routes from each floor of your home and practice using them.  Be sure you can open doors and windows from the inside without a key.

  • Never leave a burning candle or fireplace unattended.

  • Don’t place anything that will burn near a furnace, water heater, space heater, or the stove top.

  • Don’t use flammable chemicals near appliances with pilot lights.

  • Have your furnace and chimney inspected each year.  Some utility companies provide free or low cost inspections.

  • Know how to put out kitchen fires.  If a fire occurs, don’t panic.  For oven fires, close the door and turn off the oven.  Use a pot lid to smother a stovetop fire.  Keep a filled ABC-rated fire extinguisher near the kitchen.

  • Pay attention when you are cooking.  If you must leave the kitchen turn off all burners.

  • Prevent scalds by setting your water heater to 120 degrees or lower.  Anti-scald devices are available for bathtubs or showers.

  • Know emergency phone numbers for your area.  In most places it is 911.  Post the number near each telephone.  Teach children the emergency number.

Tips to Protect Children from Fires and Burns

  • Teach children not to play with matches or lighters.  Store them out of sight and reach.

  • Teach your children what to do if they smell smoke or hear the smoke alarm.

  • Have children practice escaping from a fire.

  • Never leave young children alone.

  • Place pots and pans on the rear burner of the stove and always turn handles inward so they are not accessible to toddlers.

  • Keep the cords for crockpots, coffee makers, and deep fryers out of the reach of small children.

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Electrical Safety

While enjoying electric TVs, radios and other appliances, we may forget they can cause shocks and fires.  In 1990, bad plugs, cords, switches, and outlets caused about 13,000 home fires and nearly 200 deaths.  Most electrical fires and injuries can be prevented.  People should take the time to have their electrical systems inspected and learn about electrical safety.

Tips on Electrical Safety

  • People who live in homes that are more than 10 years old should consider having the wiring inspected.  If your home is more than 40 years old, an inspection is overdue.  Be sure to consult with your local building inspector before making repairs.

  • Never place electric cords under rugs or bedding.  Heat or sparks from these cords could cause a fire.

  • Follow the safety tips on new appliances.

  • Check electrical cords for signs of wear.  Replace frayed or cracked cords to prevent shocks and fires.

  • Check labels on lamps and use the right size bulb.  Check the label on your fuse box and be sure you use the right size fuses.

  • Fix electrical problems right away.  If fuses blow often, circuit breakers trip often, switches get hot or people are shocked, something is wrong.

  • Cover unused outlets with plastic plugs.

  • If a cord has 3-prongs, use it properly.  Don’t remove the extra prong.  The third prong is there because the appliance must be grounded to prevent electrical shocks.

  • Take cover during a thunder storm.  If you are indoors, stay away from open windows and doors and use the telephone only in an emergency.  If you are outdoors stay in your car and away from water, trees, and metal objects.  Avoid low areas that might flood in a heavy rain.

  • Do not overhaul outlets.  Extension cords shouldn't be used as permanent fixtures in home rebuilding.

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Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI is a special type of outlet that prevents shocks.  These outlets are recommended for areas where water is used.  Install GFCIs in bathrooms, kitchens (within 6 feet of the sink), laundry areas, garages, basements, outdoor outlets, and around pools, saunas, and hot tubs.  Test these outlets monthly.

For more information

  • Fire Prevention: call your local fire department.
  • Electrical Safety: call your local utility or an electrical contractor.

Prepared by the
Wisconsin Dept of Health Services
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health

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Last Revised: November 05, 2012