Electricity is an essential part of our lives, yet we rarely think of all the ways we use it or how to treat it with proper caution. According to The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), an average of 51,000 electrical home structure fires occur each year, claiming almost 500 lives, injuring more than 1,400 people, and causing more than $1.3 billion in property damage. The month of May is National Electrical Safety Month, encouraging families to inspect their homes for electrical risk factors and take precautionary measures to prevent catastrophes from occurring in the future.

Electrical safety at home depends not only on a properly working home electrical system, but also on observing essential precautions and procedures when dealing with electricity, including the appliances, outlets and other equipment that carry it. Both indoors and out, electrical hazards can pose serious risks, so it’s important for all members of the family to know how to recognize those hazards and take appropriate action.

Home wiring systems should be checked at least once a year for faulty wiring. Outlets and working fire alarms should be checked and maintained year-round. Look at additional online resources for further safety tips and information, and always call 911 in the case of an immediate emergency.

Electrical Safety Everywhere: Breaking Down the House

In the Bedroom

Put electric blankets on top of sheets and make sure they’re unplugged when not in use. Keep space heaters away from flammable objects. Never leave them unattended, and always unplug them when they're not in use. Ensure there's air flow around all electrical appliances.

In the Bathroom

Keep appliances like hair dryers away from sinks and bathtubs – water and electricity NEVER mix! Only use electrical appliances with dry hands. If you're barefoot, don't use anything that’s plugged in while standing on a wet floor. Don’t overload circuits with too many appliances running at once, and make sure GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) are installed.

In the Kitchen

Keep appliances, stoves and ovens clean and free of food residue or grease that could catch fire. Keep all electrical kitchen appliances away from water, and don't use them in areas where they could fall into a sink or bucket. Avoid overloading hubs and outlets with too many appliances at once, and always unplug what you aren’t using to avoid wasting energy. Make sure GFCIs are installed in any plugs used near water.

In the Living Room

Make sure light bulbs are the correct wattage for lamps. Use extension cords for temporary solutions only, not as a permanent connection to the outlet. Don’t run power cords of any kind across doorways or under carpets and rugs, since someone could trip and pull the cord loose. Protect expensive equipment with surge protectors, and periodically check outlets and switch plates for heat - a sign of faulty wiring. Get in the habit of turning everything off before you leave the room.

Of course, electrical hazards also exist outdoors - from lightning storms and power lines to power tools, electric mowers and other equipment, electrical safety should be observed all year round. To stay safe in the yard, garden or anywhere in the open, stay indoors or seek shelter during thunderstorms. Don’t leave outdoor appliances such as lawn tools plugged in when they're not in use, and keep these appliances dry and away from water sources such as pools or sprinklers. Avoid power lines at all times, and stay away from equipment being used by electric company workers.

May is the month for electrical safety awareness, but basic precautions and well maintained home electrical systems work together to keep families out of harm’s way in every season. Don’t let yourself become a statistic, start today and make your space as safe as possible!