Part of IBs- SAFE HOME 101 Series in June-Home Safety Month
SAFE HOME 101 – GFCIs Lower Home Electrocution Deaths
Before the introduction of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) in newly constructed homes - 700 people died from household electrocutions annually.
As of 2001, that number has decreased to about 400 deaths each year.
While current National Electrical Code (R) requires electrical outlets, known as GFCIs, be installed on newly constructed homes, the new technology has not been added to older homes.
The Electrical Safety Foundation advises homeowners with homes 15 years or older to check to see if their home is protected and if it is not, they recommend having a GFCI device installed.
A GFCI unit can usually be found in the home where electrical products come in contact with water, such as in the kitchen, and in the bathroom, or outdoors. A GFCI is a special type of outlet designed to “trip” before a deadly electrical shock has the chance to occur.
It works be detecting ground faults at very low levels. The device has reduced residential electrocutions by more than 50% over the last two decades.
“If GFCIs were installed in every U.S. home, nearly 70 percent of the approximate 400 electrocutions that occurred last year could have been prevented,” notes Brett Brenner, President of Electrical Safety Foundation.
While installing a GFCI device is a step in the right direction, it’s important for home owners to understand that the device is susceptible to wear and damage (from power surges that occur during an electrical storms) and monthly tests should be performed to make sure they are working properly and offering proper shock protection.
The outlet will appear normal even if the GFCI fails to properly function and therefore testing is an essential safety precaution.
Below are a few simple ways to prevent home electrical hazards from occurring:
- Pay attention to your appliances. When an appliance blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker - more than a couple times - its more than mere coincidence – it’s a sign that something bigger is wrong. Prevent serious and often dangerous injuries from occurring by unplugging the appliance and discontinuing use until a professional electrician can inspect the unit.
- Electricity and water should never be mixed. Always be sure and keep electrical appliances away from moisture and water. If an appliance falls or is accidentally dropped into water (both unplugged or plugged-in) do not attempt to unplug it or grab it. First, go to your panel board and shut off power to the circuit that controls that portion of the house and then you can safely unplug and remove the item from the water.
- Replace broken or missing wall plates. Wall plates are more than pretty décor that matches the wall paint, they are also there for protection; they keep your fingers from making contact with the live wiring located behind them. You can pick up a replacement right at your local hardware store.
- You are advised to check the GFCI every month and after an electrical storm.
This is by no means a complete and comprehensive list, but it’s a good start. Adhering to these safety tips will help make sure your home and family safe from injury.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International is dedicated to solely promoting electrical safety by focusing on reducing electrically related injuries, deaths and property damage. #