For many of us, December is a month of joy and holiday celebrating. But it's also the deadliest month when it comes to home electrical fires.

Deaths from fire typically increase during the winter months as a result of increased indoor activity and they reach their peak this month from our use of holiday lighting, extra heating and poorly maintained appliances.

Each year, home electrical problems account for an estimated 67,800 electrical fires resulting in the death of 485 Americans. Another 2,305 people are injured and $868 million worth of property is lost.

These fires may be caused by electrical system failures, or defects in appliances, but the majority are the result of misuse and poor maintenance, incorrect wiring installation, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. 

Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk and prevent the loss of life and property:   

       Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. 

         Avoid connecting an excessive amount of holiday lighting and decorations to a single circuit whenever possible.

         Routinely check electrical appliances and wiring to look for signs of fraying and have any worn, old or damaged appliance cords replaced by a professional or throw them away.

         Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters and pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.

         When buying electrical appliances look for products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

         Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair dryers.

         Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.

         If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.

         Immediately shut off and professionally replace switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

      Child-proof electrical outlets with safety closures.

        Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear and if the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them as well as any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke.

       Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.

         And finally, it doesn't hurt to practice a home escape plan fire drill with your own family every now and then. You do it at work and school, so why not at home.