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Illinois Country Living

Molly Hall
Molly Hall, Director of Safe Electricity

Safety & Health:

Make a Life Saving New Year’s Resolution
How to eliminate electrical hazards in your home

Tens of thousands of fires are caused each year by electrical problems inside the home, but most can be easily prevented with a few simple steps. Taking a few minutes to check for and eliminate electrical hazards is a New Year’s resolution that makes sense!

Safe Electricity suggests teaching your children how to be safe around electricity. As part of the new “Teach Learn Care” TLC campaign, the program urges parents and other caregivers to make sure children are aware of these hazards. Use this electrical safety checklist to help protect your home and loved ones:

  • Electrical outlets – Check for loose–fitting plugs, which can be a shock or fire hazard. Replace missing or broken wall plates so wiring and components are not exposed. If you have young children in the home, make sure unused outlets are covered.
  • Plugs – Never force them into outlets. Don’t remove the grounding pin (third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet.
  • Cords – Make sure they are not frayed or cracked, placed under carpets or rugs, or located in high traffic areas. Do not nail or staple them to walls, floors or other objects.
  • Extension cords – Use them on a temporary basis only. They are not intended as permanent household wiring. Make sure they have safety closures to protect young children.
  • Light bulbs – Check the wattage to make sure light bulbs match the fixture requirements and are screwed securely in place. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage ratings than recommended and consider replacing burned-out bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which last 10 times as long and use one-fourth the energy of an incandescent bulb.
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) – Make sure GFCIs are installed in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, workshop, basement and garage, as well as, on outdoor outlets. Test them monthly to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Circuit breakers/Fuses – Fuses should be properly rated for the circuit they are protecting. Always replace a fuse with the same size you are removing. Check that circuit breakers are working properly.
  • Appliances/Electronics – If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker or has given you an electrical shock, immediately unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
  • Electrical wiring - Wiring defects are a major cause of residential blazes. Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, wires or lighting fixtures. Listen for popping or sizzling sounds behind walls. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace light switches that are warm to the touch and lights that spark and flicker.
  • Service capacity – As you continue to upgrade your home with more lighting, appliances and electronics, your home’s electrical service capacity may become overburdened. If fuses blow or breakers trip frequently, you may need to increase electrical service and add new branch circuits. A qualified, licensed electrician can determine the appropriate service requirements for your home.
  • Portable generators – Be sure your generator is properly grounded and is not plugged into a home outlet or connected directly to your home’s wiring system. A transfer switch should always be installed to protect against serious injury resulting from backfeed. Follow all manufacturer’s installation instructions. Notify your local utility that a backup generator has been installed.

Keeping you safe all year is the goal of Safe Electricity, an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of several dozen organizations, including electric utilities, educators and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety. For more information or games and materials to help teach children about electrical safety, visit

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Molly Hall is the Director of Safe Electricity. For more information on these and other kinds of situations involving electricity visit


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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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