Death Caused by Electric Blanket

Keith Evans

Electric blankets have a long history dating back to at least the 1950s, and even further back in other, non-bedding uses. Early electric blankets, and even those manufactured through the early 1990s, produced heat through simple electrical resistance.

Electric Blankets Heat With Electricity

When plugged into an electrical outlet and turned on, the blankets allowed electricity to pass through a small controller and into the blanket. Inside the blanket, a series of resistors and high-resistance wire produced heat by impeding the flow of electricity; this process works in much the same way as a light bulb gives off heat when the illuminated filament inside it impedes electrical flow. In older blankets, a simple electrical capacitor inside the control box allowed users to control the amount of heat produced by the blanket by adjusting the amount of electricity allowed to pass. According to Bedding Plus, an online electric blanket retailer, modern electric blankets use advanced electronics to provide myriad additional features, and some even sense the body temperature of the people they cover and adjust the heat accordingly; despite this advanced technology, modern electric blankets still produce heat by resisting the flow of electricity.

Blankets Can Become Damaged

As electric blanket owners use the blankets, fold and store them, then continue to use them year after year, the blankets can become damaged, torn and tattered. According to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, users should store electric blankets flat and dry, and blankets should undergo a maintenance check at least every three years. Over time, repeated use can break resistors, leaving open electrical connections inside the blanket. In addition, blankets that become torn, ripped or tattered may expose the electrical resistors and wires inside, leading to dangerous damage and exposure. Wet electrical blankets can also be a problem, as water may damage the electrical components inside the blanket, and plugs that become damaged through routine use may also alter the electrical flow passed into the blanket. In some cases, blanket owners create dangers by using electric blankets outside the approved guidelines published by manufacturers, resulting in extensive damage to the blanket itself or the electrical components. Even simple age itself can deteriorate an electric blanket’s integrity. According to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, 99 percent of all electric blanket incidents involve blankets at least ten years old.

Blankets Kill Through Fire and Burns

When an electric blanket becomes damaged, the chances that it will cause a serious or fatal accident increase significantly. Electric blankets with broken internal electrical connections or components may create sparks between the broken elements; these sparks may create a fire in the blanket’s fabric exterior or other bedding. Wet or torn electric blankets may allow electricity to flow from the electrical components to nearby bedding and create a fire or, worse, directly electrocute the sleeping user (for this reason, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service recommends that electric blanket users turn off blankets before going to sleep). If an electric blanket user notices that the blanket has become old and worn, torn or frayed, she should immediately discard it. Similarly, users should discard any electric blankets that emit an electrical odor when in use, fail routine maintenance checks or show scorch marks.