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Avoid Electrical Fires With Proper Maintenance, Use and Prevention

The Office of the State Fire Marshal recently published this handy overview with tips to avoid electrical fires in the home.  Please take a moment to read, and make changes in your home if necessary… It may save lives!

Each year in the United States, electrical faults are responsible for starting more than 28,000 home fires, killing and injuring hundreds of people, and causing over $700 million in property damage. (Electrical Safety Foundation International)

State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy suggests the following guidelines to help ensure that you and your family are safe from shock hazards and electrical fires.


  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.  Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Identify the circuits in the breaker box. The breaker box usually tells the amperage of each circuit as well as the outlets serviced by the circuit.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician as needed.
  • Look for telltale signs of electrical problems such as dim and flickering lights, unusual sizzling and buzzing sounds from your electrical system, insulation and circuit breakers that trip repeatedly. Contact a qualified electrician immediately.
  • Overheating, unusual smells, shorts, sparks and sputters are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired.

Proper Use – When using appliances, follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions.

  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • 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.
  • Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as running the cords under rugs through doorways or windows, over nails or in high traffic areas.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
  • Do not piggy-back power strips by plugging one into another. Plug each power strip directly into an electrical outlet.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the light fixture.


  • Be sure electrical outlets near a wet area have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection.
  • Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory. Only use lab-approved electric blankets and warmers.
  • In homes with young children, install tamper resistant receptacles to prevent electrical shocks and burns.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area.


The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington State’s firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.


Electric fires are covered on a standard homeowner’s insurance policy.  If you have questions about your insurance protection plan, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 425-379-9200.  We’re here to help!


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