Tip Sheet: How To Avoid Household Fires

Underwriters Laboratories shows you how to keep your family safe.

Dec. 16, 2010 — -- Ordinary products in our homes can become fire hazards if used incorrectly.

So "Good Morning America" teamed up with Underwriters Laboratories, the nonprofit company behind the familiar UL Mark that means a product has been tested for safety, to show u how it can happen.

Here are stats and safety tips provided by UL to keep this from happening to you.

Tips to Keep Your Household Fire Safe

Space Heater Safety Tips and Stats

Keep all space heaters at least 3 feet away from household combustibles.

Use space heaters only as a supplementary source of heat. These devices are not intended to replace the home's heating system.

Do not use extension cords with space heaters unless absolutely necessary.

Inspect the heater's cord periodically to look for frayed wire or damaged insulation. Do not use a space heater with a damaged cord.

Check periodically for a secure plug/outlet fit. If the plug becomes very hot, the outlet may need to be replaced by a qualified technician. This could be the sign of a potential home wiring issue.

Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface. Do not place heaters on furniture since they may fall and become damaged or break parts in the heater.

Unless the heater is designed for use outdoors or in bathrooms, do not use in damp, wet areas.

Look for the UL Mark on your electric heater. This means representative samples of the appliance have met UL's stringent safety standards.

If you have a liquid-fueled space heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer. The wrong fuel could burn hotter than the equipment was designed for and cause a serious fire.

When refueling, turn off the heater and let it cool down completely before adding fuel. Wipe away any spills promptly.

Before you buy a kerosene heater, check with your local fire department to ensure that it is legal.

Electric Blanket/Afghan Safety Tips

Look for the UL Mark when purchasing an electric blanket.

Replace any heating blanket that is worn or torn; where the electric cord is frayed; or where the temperature control is damaged.

UL recommends turning an electric blanket on about 15 minutes before going to sleep; then, turn off the blanket right before going to bed.

Do not use electric blankets and heating pads together. The heat generated by the combined appliances can cause serious burns.

Do not tuck heating blankets underneath mattresses or other items. Excessive heat may build up to the point where the bedding could ignite.

Never ball up a heating blanket and leave it on. Excessive Make sure to follow manufactures'' instructions when washing an electric blanket. There are specific instructions consumers should follow when washing certain types of blankets.

Candle Safety Tips and Stats

Keep an eye on burning candles.

Place candles out of the reach of children and pets.

Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to Don't place candles near curtains, bedding, paper, walls or any combustible materials.

Use a sturdy, non-combustible candleholder that can collect drippings and won't tip over.

Power/Extension Cord Safety Tips

Do a walk-through of your home, and if you see sockets with too many cords plugged in or even too many extension cords around the house, it may be time to have extra outlets installed by a professional.

Always pay attention to the acceptable wattage for cords and lamps and look for extension cords that are "tacked up" or run under a rug as these could be a real fire hazard for kids and adults.

Dens and nurseries are particularly susceptible to overloaded outlets. Never plug something in unsafely "just this once" or "until I get another power strip tomorrow."

Lamp/Light Bulb Safety Tips

When replacing a light bulb in a portable lamp or fixture, make sure that the replacement bulb is of equal or lesser wattage than that recommended by the lamp or fixture manufacturer.

Keep all lamps away from potential combustibles, such as drapes.

To help avoid the potential fire hazard all together, replace your standard light bulb with a UL-Listed Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) or LED light.

Ceiling Fan Tips

Follow specific manufacturers' directions when mounting the ceiling fan.

Do not use a light dimmer switch to control a ceiling fan because the dimmer switch will cause the motor to overheat, potentially causing a fire.

If a ceiling fan includes lights, be sure the circuit it's on has enough extra capacity to handle the load. If not, you must run a new circuit with a new circuit breaker from the house main service panel or subpanel to the fan. If there is no central light fixture, you'll have to create a place to hang the ceiling fan. Then, you'll need to bring electrical power to it. You can tap into an existing circuit to do this.

When possible, install a ceiling fan 10 feet above the floor. Most outlet boxes used to support light fixtures are not acceptable for fan support and may need to be replaced. Consult a qualified technician if in doubt.

DIY Wiring Tips

Always turn off the circuit breaker (or remove the fuse) before working on or replacing electrical equipment. If you have a pre-1940s home, history suggests that you probably have more than one breaker box, or panel board, as electricians call them.

For optimal safety, receptacles should be wired with the proper grounding and polarity. Generally, the three-pronged outlets signify an effective ground path in the circuit. However, homes built before the mid-1960s probably won't have a grounding path, and simply replacing the existing outlet with a three-pronged outlet won't give you one.

Always make sure your wiring size and type match. Splicing wires by simply twisting them together and covering them with electrical tape is rarely a good idea. Instead, use wiring that is suitable to your home's wiring and house wiring connections in metal or plastic boxes.

Most light fixtures are marked with instructions for supply connections, such as "Use wire rated for at least 90C," which refers to the maximum temperature — 90 degrees Celsius or about 200 degrees Fahrenheit — under which a wire's insulation can safely be used. Again, if you have an older home (pre-1984, in this case) the wiring may have a lower temperature rating than the new luminaire.