STATEWIDE, MD – January 23, 2020 – State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci would like to warn parents of a new viral teen video, which may result in fire incidents and cause serious injury. While the Office of the State Fire Marshal has received no reported incidents within Maryland thus far, the agency has been notified by authorities of two incidents in Massachusetts.
The “challenge” seen on the popular video app, TikTok, involves using the plug part of a phone charger, partially inserting it into the wall outlet, and then sliding a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs. The result is sparks, electrical system damage, and in some cases, fire. These videos are a concern and similar to past viral videos that encourage unsafe behavior. State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci stated: “We are alerting parents to this challenge, and advise them to not only look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets but to have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers.”
As a reminder, please follow the electrical fire safety tips:
- Insert plugs fully into sockets
- If you have young children, install tamper-resistant electrical outlets
- Replace wall outlets if plugs do not fit tightly, or show signs of damage.
- Do not overload outlets
- Never force a three-pronged plug into a two-slot outlet.
In addition to electrical fire safety, the Office of the State Fire Marshal would like to remind parents and children to discuss the dangers of particular online “challenges” and recognizing the dangerous activity on the internet.
According to local news reports, high school students in Massachusetts have been imitating a dangerous viral video circulating on the social media app TikTok. Along with Massachusetts fire officials who have issued fire alerts about the dangers of this activity, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is urging the public not to participate in this challenge.
“Electricity is ubiquitous in our lives, so much so that we often take for granted its power and potential for danger,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “This video challenge reinforces that electricity can inflict serious harm if used improperly.”
Called the #outletchallenge, the video shows how to partially insert the plug of a cellphone charger into an outlet and slide a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs. The results include sparks and damage to the electrical system, and in some cases, fires, injuries, and even electrocution.
“Our hope is to communicate the true dangers of this activity so that we can prevent anyone else from being harmed by it,” said Carli.
NFPA offers resources to help protect teens from trends that have primarily emerged on social media in recent years, helping them identify risky behaviors and make safer decisions. Mainly designed for parents, caretakers, and fire departments, these resources can help anyone have an open dialogue with teenagers and discourage dangerous behavior.