Electrical Safety & Fire Extinguishers

General Electrical Safety

  • If an appliance smells funny or operates improperly, pull the plug if it can be done safely. If arcing burning or smoking from an appliance occurs, turn off the power at the circuit breaker and call the fire department!
  • If a serious electrical malfunction occurs in your home, school or workplace, it is the same as a fire. Notify others, activate the fire alarm and exit promptly. If you are familiar with the operation of a fire extinguisher, you can use only a "Class C" fire extinguisher on an electrical fire.
  • Never set anything on or against electrical wiring. The pressure can cause the wire to become hot and instantly fuse and create a fire. Never put water on electrical fires ~ You can get electrocuted!
  • When an electrical emergency occurs, there are several survival actions that can be taken. You should know how to trip the main circuit breaker at the electrical panel to turn off all power to the house.
  • Winds accompanying thunderstorms may knock down power lines or utility poles. Keep people away from the area, and call the fire department. If power lines come intact with a vehicle, do not touch it or the vehicle. If people are inside, tell them to stay inside. If they try to exit, they may complete a grounded electrical circuit and be instantly Killed. They must stay inside until the power is shut by the utility company.

Electrical Receptacle Outlets

  • Another method of protection in the home is to install 3-wire receptacles which will accept either 2-or 3-prong plugs (shown below). This method, however, requires a grounding conductor which may or may not be available in the outlet box. The least acceptable method is installing another 2-wire receptacle that requires the use of an adapter for accepting 3-wire plugs (as shown below). Even though the tab on the adapter may be properly connected to the cover-plate screw, the grounding path may not be adequate to protect against ground faults.
  • Consumers should have a qualified person replace deteriorated and damaged receptacles and, at the same time, upgrade their home electrical system to present safety standards. The simplest and most effective method to protect against electrocution is through the installation of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) (as shown in the figure below). If you wish to receive a copy of the Commission’s fact sheet on GFCIs, send a postcard to "Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, Washington, D.C. 20207," and a copy will be sent promptly.
  • Electrical receptacle outlets in walls and floors may present shock and electrical fire hazards to consumers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 3,900 injuries associated with electrical receptacle outlets are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. Approximately a third of injuries occur when young children insert metal objects, such as hair pins and keys, into the outlet, resulting in electric shock or burn injuries to the hand and/or finger. CPSC also estimates that electric receptacles are involved in 5,300 fires annually which claim 40 lives and injured 110 consumers.
  • Older homes may have receptacles which are damaged or which, otherwise, may have deteriorated over the years. In one case of a damaged receptacle, a woman suffered severe burns to her hand as she was plugging in a floor lamp. Part of the plastic faceplate of the outlet had broken away, allowing the prongs of the plug to bridge from the electrical contacts to the grounded strap, resulting in intense electrical arcing.
  • Outlets also deteriorate from repeated use, from plugging-in and unplugging appliances as is often done in kitchens and bathrooms. As a result, when plugs fit loosely into receptacles, especially the two-prong ungrounded type, they may slip partially or completely out of the receptacle with only slight movement of the attached cord. Receptacles in this condition may overheat and pose a serious fire hazard; if covered by a curtain or drape, the fire hazard is even greater.

Bad Outlets

Outlets with poor internal contacts or loose wire terminals may become overheated and emit sparks. Even a receptacle with nothing plugged into it may run hot if it is passing current through to other outlets on the same circuit. To prevent damage to receptacles, appliances should be switched-off before unplugging from a receptacle.


  • Have a qualified electrician replace damaged receptacles or those which feel hot, emit smoke or sparks, those with loose fitting plugs or those where plugged-in lamps flicker or fail to light.
  • Do not unplug appliances by pulling on the cord at an angle. The brittle plastic face of the receptacle may crack and break away, leaving live parts of the receptacle exposed.

Child Protection

  • Insert plastic safety caps into unused outlets within reach of young children.
  • Be sure that plugs are inserted completely into receptacles so that no part of the prongs are exposed.