Consumer Reports has just issued the results of its investigation into the safety of commonly used appliances and the news isn’t good: according to Consumer Reports, appliances can start fires just setting there — they may not even be operating when the fire starts — and the cause of the fires all too often are not mistakes made by humans (which the manufacturer is always quick to suggest) but because of a product defect.
Consumer Reports did its usual research including culling through lots of fire data compiled by the federal government, and has found that it’s a 50-50% chance that the defect in the product starts the fire. Not the human.
Scary stuff here: appliances that turn themselves on. Fires popping up from flaws in dishwashers. You can read all the details about the study online in the March 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
8 Things You Can Do To Protect Against Appliance Fires
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has issued a press release to warn all of us about the real danger of appliance fires and to give 8 tips for protecting against an appliance fire:
- Register new appliances. The large number of recalls is a sobering reminder of how important it is for consumers to register their products with manufacturers in order to be promptly notified in the event of a recall. Consumers concerned about their privacy or junk mail need only provide manufacturers with their name, contact information and the appliance’s model number.
- Check for recalls. Consumers can sign up for alerts at www.recalls.gov. Those who move into a home with existing appliances should record their make and model and check company websites for any recalls or review customers’ experiences with those products at www.SaferProducts.gov.
- Install fire-prevention equipment. Each level of a home and every bedroom should have a working smoke alarm. Consumer Reports recommends smoke alarms have both photoelectric and ionization sensors to provide the fastest response to any type of fire. Also, keep one full-floor fire extinguisher (rated 2-A:10-B:C or greater) on every level, plus a smaller supplemental unit in the kitchen.
- Inspect power cords. Check for frayed power cords and never route electric cords (including extension cords) under carpeting, where they can overheat or be damaged by furniture.
- Check home wiring. The electrical wiring in older homes cannot always handle the demands of modern appliances. Systems should be inspected by a qualified electrician. An upgrade to wiring may cost several hundred dollars, but is likely worth the added expense.
- Practice kitchen safety. Unattended cooking is a common fire-starter, whether using a range or microwave oven. If small children are home, maintain a kids-free-zone of at least 3 feet and use back burners when possible. Consumers should unplug their small appliances, including toasters and coffeemakers, when not in use and or when planning to be away for long periods.
- Clear range hoods. Grease buildup in range hoods is another fire hazard, so be sure to clean the vents regularly.
- Keep dryer vents clear. Clean the lint screen in the dryer regularly to avoid buildup, which has been listed as a factor in many fires. Use rigid metal dryer ducts instead of flexible ducts made of foil or plastic, which can sag and let lint build. Check ducts regularly and remove any lint buildup.
Once again, another example of how products that are sold everyday today in the United States are not safe. While federal agencies and private watchdog groups can do much to fight against people being hurt or killed by dangerous products, the truth remains that longstanding products liability laws on the books in Indiana, Illinois, and other states remains one of the strongest weapons against this type of tragedy. Sad but true that for some manufacturers and distributors and sellers of products today, it is only when they are faced with harm to their bottom line that they will do the right thing.
Be careful out there.