A ground fault occurs when electricity travels outside an intended path, because of a frayed wire or faulty device, and tries to get to the ground by the shortest route. Unless you have an outlet with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), you may be seriously shocked or burned because you may be the shortest route to the ground.
GFCIs are found in outlets and service panels. They monitor the flow of current to and from appliances. If there's an imbalance in the flow, current may be traveling through you, and the GFCI will quickly cut power to prevent serious injury.
GFCIs are required in newer homes in bathrooms and garages, near kitchen sinks, and outdoors. They can be added as temporary plug-in GFCI adapters, or they can also be added by an electrician as replacement outlets. If your outlets don't have GFCI test and reset buttons, check your main service panel — you may have some ground fault protected circuit breakers.
When you use a plug with three prongs, the third prong connects inside the outlet with a "ground wire" which usually connects to a water pipe or a ground rod at the service panel. As a result, in a short circuit, electricity should flow to the ground instead of through you. Never remove a third prong.
Most electrical fires can be traced to overheated circuits and overloaded equipment. When abused, insulation may melt or burn, exposing live wires. Electrical fires can also occur when equipment is driven beyond capacity, or accumulated oil and dirt overheat a motor, or sparks ignite scraps, dirt, dust, or flammable liquids.
Visualize your plan of response in a fire, so you can move quickly if one happens.