Action 9 investigates risky circuit breakers

Action 9 investigates risky circuit breakers

An Action 9 investigation uncovered just how risky a circuit breaker that's in thousands of central Florida homes could be.

WFTV tested breakers that appeared to be working in local homes, but Todd Ulrich found those devices would have failed to keep you safe.

Brian Freeman didn't stand a chance.   His home caught fire after a circuit breaker failed, killing him.

Content Continues Below

Freeman’s father, Phillip, is a retired electrician who knew Federal Pacific breakers were controversial. But Freeman said he didn't realize they were inside his son's mobile home near Panama City until an investigator told him that caused the deadly fire.

“And I said, “’Oh, my God, no,” said Freeman.

FP breakers are in thousands of local homes and apartments built from 1960 into the early '80s. Many electrical engineers claim the boxes fail at alarming rates.

After watching WFTV’s first investigation, Corky Morris replaced his breaker boxes inside and out.

“Everything that had Federal Pacific on it: Replaced.  Gone,” said Morris.

But what are the chances an FP box could fail in your home and start a fire? WFTV paid a testing company to find out.

With the help of Palmer Electric, WFTV collected five FP breaker boxes from local homes before any problem had been detected. We shipped them to C and E testing near Jacksonville, where a technician sent an overload current through each breaker.

Time and time again, a breaker jammed, barely moved and failed to cut off the power.

In all, 11 individual switches were defective, and all five breaker boxes that had been protecting local homes failed the test.

A New Jersey class action lawsuit had found Federal Pacific, now out of business, had cheated on tests to have the boxes approved.

WFTV’s test results suggest many breakers in local homes today will not keep you safe.

The CPSC ended an FP breaker investigation in 1982 because it ran out of money. An attorney for the bankrupt company did not respond.

Homeowners with FB breakers are suggested to contact a licensed electrician and review your options. Also, realize some insurance companies won't cover homes that have that breaker.