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Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office Offers Electrical Safety Tips

Tennessee State Fire MarshalNashville, TN – Did you know that residential electrical fires kill as many as 280 Americans each year and injure 1,000 more? The Tennessee State Fire Marshal Gary West is informing Tennesseans on the dangers of fires that can be caused by incorrectly installing wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

“Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to the misuse of electric cords, whether through overloaded circuits, poor maintenance, or cords being placed under rugs or in high traffic areas,” said State Fire Marshal Gary West. “Simple safety precautions can reduce these occurrences and help safeguard your home from fires.”

Last year, 472 structure fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment were reported in Tennessee.

Those fires resulted in 6 deaths and 9 injuries, as well as $15.3 million in direct property damage.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) would like consumers to know  that there are simple steps to take to prevent electrical fires.

Safety Precautions:

  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and their wiring. Replace all worn, old, or damaged appliance cords immediately. Do not try to repair them.
  • Buy only appliances that bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Major and small appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, never an extension cord. 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.
  • Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children. Where replacement is not possible, install new protective outlet covers, which do not allow a child to insert an object into the wall outlet.
  • Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
  • Use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection and that also bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • 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.
  • Do not use a clothes dryer without a lint filter. Clean out the dryer’s lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Clean lint out of the vent pipe quarterly or more often if you notice that it is taking longer than usual for your clothes to dry.
  • Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe on the dryer is not restricted and the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating.
  • Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to make sure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
  • Keep dryers in good working order by following the manufacturer’s operating instructions. Do not overload your dryer.
  • Turn off the dryer when you leave home or go to bed.
  • Electrical work should be done only by a licensed electrician. Have your home electrical system inspected by a licensed, qualified professional when buying, selling or renovating a home. You can check limited-licensed electricians’ license statuses at Commerce and Insurance’s license database, http://verify.tn.gov.

Call a licensed 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

Lastly, the State Fire Marshal’s Office urges Tennesseans to have working smoke alarms installed in their homes and to develop and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a common outside meeting place.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. Visit our website at www.tn.gov/fire for more fire prevention tips. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


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