Every year, the U.S. has more than 45,000 house fires involving electrical failure or malfunction, causing 420 civilian deaths, 1,370 civilian injuries and $1.4 billion in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

To keep your family and home safe from electrical fires, as well as from electrocution, take time to do an electrical system checkup every six months. Use these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the NFPA, the Electrical Safety Foundation Institute (ESFI) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

1. Know the age of your electrical system, and consider bringing in a licensed electrician to inspect it. The CPSC recommends homeowners hire a licensed electrician to do an inspection every 10 years. Check the timing of your home’s last inspection by opening your circuit breaker and looking at the panel for a date and initials/signature showing the most recent inspection date. If no date can be found, go by the age of your house.

2. Check that all switches and outlets are working properly. If switches or outlets don’t work or are broken or prone to tripping the circuit breaker, this is a good indication that something is wrong with the wiring. Check to see if any outlets or switches are hot or discolored as this too can indicate unsafe wiring. Also, listen for any buzzing or sizzling around outlets, which is an indication of unsafe wiring.

3. Plug only one heat-producing appliance, such as a coffee maker, space heater or microwave, directly into a wall outlet at a time. This will help prevent the circuit from overloading.

4. On that note, be careful not to overload power strips or outlets with too many devices or too much voltage. Additionally, instead of power strips, choose point-of-protection surge protectors with the UL Mark; these contain a special device that redirects a voltage surge. Use one for all major electronics and appliances, which will help protect your devices from power surges.

5. Use extension cords temporarily. If you’re relying on them, it indicates that it’s time to have an electrician install additional outlets. Also, be sure to choose a UL Listed extension cord rated to handle the wattage and also use only outdoor-rated extension cords outside. Never use extension cords for a major appliance, even temporarily, as they can easily overheat and start a fire.

6. Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in places with nearby water, like bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements, and for all outdoor receptacles. These special outlets reduce the likelihood of shock, because they shut off electricity if they detect an electric surge. The CPSC says that putting GFCIs into older homes could prevent most in-home electrocutions.

7. Consider having an electrician install arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in your home. These shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs, preventing wires from overheating and causing a fire.

8. Once a month, when you test smoke detectors, also test your AFCIs and GFCIs. Learn how to test GFCI and AFCI.

9. Unplug small appliances when you are not using them, because unattended, plugged-in appliances may create an unnecessary fire risk.

10. Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. Using one with too high of a wattage may overheat the light fixture or wiring, causing a fire.

11. Inspect all electrical cords. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords; don’t try to repair them.

12. Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched, like under a carpet or rug or under a window or door. This can pinch them and cause the wires to become damaged, risking fire and/or electrocution. Also, be sure to fully unravel all appliance cords when in use as wrapped cords traps heat and risk a fire.

Take time to go through your house with this checklist to ensure that your home’s electrical system is up to par. Then be sure to do the whole list twice a year.