A 'Two-Pronged' Approach to Electrical Outlet Safety
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) should be used
in any indoor or outdoor area where water may come into contact with
Consumers can depend on a pair of important safety devices
to protect them from electrical hazards in the home: ground fault circuit
interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Each device
protects against different dangers: GFCIs address shock hazards while AFCIs
fight fire hazards.
According to the Electrical Safety
Foundation International (ESFI), GFCIs have cut the number of home
electrocutions in half. By detecting ground faults — an unintentional
electric path between a source of current and a grounded surface;
essentially, current leaking to the ground ―
a GFCI protects you from severe or fatal
electric shocks. It can also prevent some electrical fires.
If you have ever experienced an electric shock, it
probably happened because part of your body contacted an electrical current
and provided a path for the current to go to ground. If your body provides
the path, you could be seriously injured.
GFCIs constantly monitor electricity moving through a
circuit. If the current flow differs from that returning, the device quickly
switches off power.
AFCIs, a relatively recent technology, help prevent home
fires caused by arcing faults in damaged or deteriorated wires and cords.
Home wiring problems, like sparking, are associated with more than 40,000
home fires each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
These fires kill more than 350 and injure 1,400 victims annually.
Nominal arcs may happen in the brushes of a vacuum sweeper
or light switch; dangerous arcs can occur in frayed cords. When unwanted
arcing occurs, it generates high temperatures that can ignite nearby
combustibles such as wood, paper, and carpets.
Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads
and short circuits. By the time a fuse or circuit cuts power to defuse these
conditions, a fire may have already started. AFCIs use unique
current-sensing circuitry to discriminate between normal and unwanted arcing
conditions. In the event of an arcing fault, the AFCI shuts off electricity
flowing through a circuit.
For more information on where to
install GFCIs and AFCIs, visit www.cpsc.gov.