DALHART, Texas (KFDA) - It’s a new social media challenge that has kids mixing pennies, outlets and phone chargers and has been seen at Dalhart High School three times in the last week.
“It’s sad to say, but you could lose a life over it. If a small toddler did this or a child did this because they saw their brother or sister watching this on YouTube, Tik Tok, Snapchat, whatever it may be,” said David Jones, Dalhart firefighter.
The ‘outlet challenge’ has kids plugging a phone charger into a wall leaving enough space to drop a penny in between the wall and the outlet. When the copper of the penny hits the prongs of the charger, a rush of an electrical current occurs.
“When that metal object touches the top of the charger, you’re typically going to have a breaker that would trip because that high end rush current, that breaker is designed to trip to keep that safe. That does not always happen however, or happen quick enough,” said Nathan Hobbs, assistant electric operations manager at 1-800-PLUMBER.
Because of the electrical rush that is created when the penny hits the prongs of the charger, it creates heat that could start a fire behind the wall without you knowing.
Jones was called to Dalhart High School to inspect for fires behind the walls.
“By the time they could see a fire happening, it could be to the point that a fire extinguisher may not control it, especially if it’s inside the wall itself. You’re more than likely not going to able to control it at all. It will need to burn through the wall before a fire extinguisher will be able to do anything about it. At that time if there is a fire and they can’t see it when we get there, we will have to break through the wall to find that fire and also check for extension into the wall,” said Jones.
Electricians say any outlet that has experienced the ‘outlet challenge’ needs to be professionally checked to make sure the wires have not been compromised and are not leaking, which could create a fire over time.
“Anytime you have that arc flash, you’re going to have a burn. Whether it’s the penny, the back of the receptacle, the cover plate or the wall or the wiring itself, there’s going to be a burn there,” said Hobbs.
There have been reports of the outlet challenge happening in Amarillo as well.
Some area police warn that in the state of Texas, this is considered a felony and if caught you could be charged with arson.