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State Fire Marshal: Misuse of Electric Cords Can Lead to Fires

Monday, November 13, 2017 | 09:57am

NASHVILLE – Electricity helps make our lives easier, but there are times when we can take its power and its potential for fire-related hazards for granted. The State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds Tennesseans that the dangers of electrical hazards are always present and warns of common hazards such as overloaded electrical outlets, arcing, and extension cords.

“Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to the misuse of electric cords, whether through overloaded circuits, poor maintenance, or cords being placed under rugs or in high traffic areas,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Deputy Commissioner Gary West. “Simple safety precautions can reduce these occurrences and help safeguard your home from fires.”

Between 2012 and 2016 in Tennessee, electrical distribution equipment such as wiring, outlets, cords and plugs accounted for 9.51 percent of all structure fires and 14.38 percent of all structure fire deaths, according to SFMO data.

To help Tennesseans identify and avoid the electrical hazards that could lead to fires, the State Fire Marshal’s Office shares the following tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

 Electrical Safety Tips

  • Check electrical cords often. Replace cracked, damaged, and loose electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
  • Major and small appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, never an extension cord. Unplug small appliances when not in use.
  • Extension cords are for temporary use only. Have a qualified electrician determine if additional circuits or wall outlets are needed.
  • Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
  • Replace wall outlets if plugs do not fit snugly or the wall outlet does not accept plugs with one blade larger than the other.
  • Use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection and that also bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.                                                             
  • Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture, under rugs and carpets, or across doorways.
  • Electrical work should be done only by a licensed electrician. Have your home electrical system inspected by a licensed, qualified professional when buying, selling or renovating a home. You can check limited-licensed electricians’ license statuses at the Department of Commerce & Insurance’s license database:   

Call a licensed electrician if you have any of the following:

  • Recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
  • A tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance
  • Discolored or warm wall outlets or switches
  • A burning smell or rubbery odor coming from an appliance
  • Flickering lights
  • Sparks from a wall outlet
  • Cracked or broken wall outlets

For more information on how to protect your family from fire, visit