Intelligent Fire Safety Device Marks 20 Years of Enhancing Electrical Safety in Homes

Over the past 20 years, home electrical systems have become increasingly advanced, incorporating smart technologies that provide consumers with a better quality of life. During Mays National Electrical Safety Month, the Low Voltage Distribution Equipment Section of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) also wants to remind consumers about an important safety device that has been helping prevent electrical fires since 1999.

Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (AFCIs) protection can detect and stop dangerous arcing in wiring before a fire can start.

Typical household fuses and standard circuit breakers were not designed to respond to early arcing and sparking conditions in home wiring, which means that by the time a fuse or standard circuit breaker would try to defuse these conditions, a fire may have already begun, said Philip Squair “ VP Government Relations, National Electrical Manufacturers Association. AFCIs are intelligent products that can quickly detect an arc fault in wiring and automatically disconnect the electricity when they sense a hazard.

A recent FEMA/U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) report (Topical Fire Report/Dec. 2018) estimated 24,000 U.S. residential electrical fires occurred from 2014-2016. Those numbers were down significantly since AFCIs were introduced in 1999, and also following the introduction of additional fire prevention technologies, improved building materials, and fire service advancements. Additionally, another FEMA/USFA study (Residential Building Fire Trends/May 2018) showed U.S. electrical house fires dropped by 22 percent over 10 years, with a 32 percent decrease in electrical fire injuries and a 39 percent decrease in property dollar loss.

This downward trend in electrical house fires is an example of when safety is a priority in new construction and lifesaving fire prevention technologies like AFCIs are included, fewer injuries and deaths occur, said Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. We applaud all these efforts, and as burn survivors who strongly support fire safety, we know each state must also be vigilant in insisting their electrical and building code requirements protect residents at the highest levels.

Many states follow National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements, but some have amended local codes to remove safety regulations. Consumers can learn more about NEC adoption and their states status at

AFCIs are a simple, cost-effective way to prevent arcing that might lead to electrical fires and are compatible with home appliances. To learn more about AFCIs, visit Homeowners interested in adding protection to new or existing homes should contact a local qualified electrician for more information.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) represents nearly 350 electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers that make safe, reliable, and efficient products and systems. Our combined industries account for 360,000 American jobs in more than 7,000 facilities covering every state. Our industry produces $106 billion shipments of electrical equipment and medical imaging technologies per year with $36 billion in exports.

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Tracy Cullen
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