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NEMA Marks 25th Anniversary of Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) for Electrical Safety Month

AFCIs combine with other life safety advancements to prevent and reduce residential electrical fire injuries and fatalities

ARLINGTON, Va.– This year, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and electrical and fire safety advocates across the globe are celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). NEMA has actively supported and promoted the installation and use of AFCI technology during this time in residential and commercial buildings as an important electrical safety device. The AFCI anniversary also falls during National Electrical Safety Month, an opportunity to advocate and advance the latest in electrical fire safety practices, and the technologies, like AFCIs, which protect lives and homes.

AFCIs are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for branch circuits supplying devices and outlets in habitable rooms, closets, hallways, and laundry areas of all residential dwellings, dormitories, hotels, motels, and other occupancies. Their history started in the late 1990s, when AFCIs emerged as a specialized circuit breaker, able to detect and stop dangerous arcing in damaged wiring and electrical cords, effectively preventing electrical fires before they could start.

“Electrical manufacturers who make AFCIs have a deep sense of pride in what continues to be accomplished by creating this technology. We all worked together to meet the needs of the safety commission, the fire administration, and many others to create a specific device to help prevent and reduce electrical fires. We celebrate this 25th anniversary of AFCIs as one of innovation and collaboration joining together to support consumer safety.” Ashley Bryant Kees, Siemens and NEMA Low Voltage Distribution Equipment AFCI Task Force chair.

In 1980, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated more than 734,000 house fires occurred, with 75,000 being electrical fires. Electrical manufacturers responded to this spike by creating AFCIs to help reduce electrical fires. The NFPA now estimates that annual residential fires have fallen to less than half of their 1980s numbers. Specifically, electrical house fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment have dropped to fewer than 32,000 annually (NFPA survey 2015-2019).

Twenty-five years after AFCIs became an NEC® requirement in dwelling units, electrical and fire safety advocates commend the impact of AFCI technology on electrical and fire safety:

“The lifelong impact of a residential electrical fire on a burn survivor can be devastating ranging from treatment and medical costs to the emotional toll on the individual and their family. Now imagine if this didn’t have to happen at all. That’s the impact that AFCIs have helped provide over the past 25 years. These devices represent a proactive way to stop these fires from even occurring. Countless lives have been saved and injuries prevented due to this technology because manufacturing and safety came together for the common good. AFCIs have become an important life safety requirement in the National Electrical Code to ensure homes are being built and renovated to keep people safe from potential electrical fires.” Amy Acton, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors CEO

“After 25 years as an NEC® requirement, AFCIs have shown to be a critical life and property safety technology homeowners should have in their homes alongside smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, and carbon monoxide detectors. All of these things help protect consumers, firefighters, residents and communities. Today’s fires are fast and can become deadly in less than two minutes. Fire detection equipment and sprinklers in homes are essential to provide early warning and to minimize losses.” Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.

For more information on AFCI ­­devices, visit www.AFCISafety.org.


About NEMA

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) represents over 300 electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers that make safe, reliable, and efficient products and systems. Together, our members contribute 1% of U.S. GDP and directly provide nearly 460,000 American jobs, contributing more than $240 billion to the U.S. economy. Learn more at www.nema.org