A new social media trend that’s made its way to the East Coast has Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) urging caution.
The so-called #OutletChallenge, which originated on TikTok, calls for users to slide a penny in between a loosely plugged-in phone charger and an electrical outlet, causing large sparks of electricity. Videos of the sparks are then posted online.
Matt Covey, HRFE fire prevention division chief, says he was in disbelief when he first heard of the challenge.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if it was real, but then I saw some instances where people actually have tried it. There are videos out there,” said Covey.
The people trying the challenge are typically teenagers. Covey says. HRFE received seven reports from a Fall River school of singed outlets as a direct result of the challenge.
“We know kids are curious about fire … kids are curious about electricity, so I don’t think it’s surprising. But we want them to know how dangerous it is,” Covey said.
“We want parents to educate their kids on the dangers of electricity and fire.”
Covey says there are some pretty serious consequences to this type of challenge, including the risk of electrocution or starting a large fire.
“You could set yourself on fire, you could set the building on fire and you can also damage things within the building,” he said. “You’re damaging the electrical outlet. You could be damaging things in behind the wall where there’s wires or the electrical panel … so you could cause a whole bunch of hazards, some of them right away.
“It’s a scary thing to think about, but we’ve seen it all the time.”
Videos of the #OutletChallenge have also been seen in Ontario, resulting in another town’s fire emergency services issuing a warning as well.
There have been no known injuries as a result of the challenge, but Covey says movements like these can often snowball.
“Video is so much more accessible now, through (TikTok) or through any app. So our concern is what’s going to be the next viral thing, whether it has to do with electricity or fire or something dangerous people are doing,” Covey said.
“People will copy those dangerous things and try to do them themselves.”
In light of the #OutletChallenge, HRFE is issuing a challenge of its own.
“Anyone who’s watching this at home, I challenge you to check your smoke alarms and practise your escape plan with your family,” Covey said.