Release date: May 22, 1996
Release number: 96-129

Release Details

To help home owners prevent fires from electrical wiring systems, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is promoting guidelines that help pinpoint fire hazards in older homes -- the most vulnerable to electrical wiring fires. CPSC is also rewiring four older homes in different parts of the country to test low-cost ways of making old electrical systems safer.

National fire statistics show that more than 40,000 fires are caused each year by problems with home electrical wiring. For the past 10 years, electrical wiring systems have been the leading cause of fire deaths involving electrical equipment, claiming an average of nearly 350 lives each year. These deaths and fires cost society over $2 billion annually.

"As the federal agency that helps keep people safe in and around their homes, CPSC is finding common sense, affordable solutions to home-wiring hazards," CPSC Chairman Ann Brown said. "This project provides consumers information on the best, least expensive methods of doing something about them."

In an effort to reduce the number of home electrical wiring system fires and save lives, CPSC has identified common home electrical wiring system hazards:

-- Many people are not aware that wiring system components can wear out over time, presenting a fire hazard.

-- The wiring systems in many older homes can have difficulty handling the increasing demands being placed on them by modern appliances like microwave ovens, toaster ovens, hair dryers, electric heaters, and others.

-- When electrical components age or are overloaded, the system can overheat and wear out insulation. This can lead to arcs and short circuits, which are the main causes of home electrical wiring fires.

To demonstrate low-cost solutions to these hazards, CPSC is rewiring homes in Capitol Heights, Md., Atlanta, Ga., Redlands, Calif., and St. Louis, Mo.

One of the greatest obstacles to determining whether older homes are safe is the lack of a current, widely accepted code against which the safety of older electrical wiring systems can be judged. CPSC's Home Electrical System Fires Project could help communities prevent fires and improve safety by raising their awareness of a new electrical code, which was developed by the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA). The code describes approximately 50 dangerous residential wiring conditions which can be identified by a visual inspection by a qualified inspector.

CPSC's Home Electrical System Fires Project involves a broad coalition of public and private organizations, including fire prevention officials, the insurance industry, and the National Electrical Safety Foundations, which will identify solutions to the home wiring problems that contribute to electrical fires.

For more information on CPSC's Home Electrical System Fires Project and free brochures on home wiring hazards, consumers should send a postcard to: Home Wiring Safety, CPSC, Washington, D.C. 20207.

For a fee, the NFPA electrical code can be obtained by calling NFPA at (800) 344-3555.

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