‘Life-threatening’ social media challenge can cause electrocution, fires, Tacoma Fire warns

By Allison Needles

The News Tribune

The Tacoma Fire Department and Tacoma Public Schools are warning families and students about a dangerous social media challenge.

Referred to as the TikTok Challenge, Outlet Challenge or Penny Challenge, the challenge causes sparks in an electrical outlet by putting a phone charger partway into a socket, then sliding a penny onto the prongs.

“When (the penny) hits the prongs, it causes an electrical spark and makes a bunch of sparks fly out,” Tacoma Fire Department spokesman Joe Meinecke said.

The challenge encourages people to post the video on social media accounts such as TikTok, a video-sharing social network.

The challenge can cause electrocutions, damage to electrical outlets and possible fires.

A student at Jason Lee Middle School participated in the challenge on Friday, causing the Tacoma Fire Department to respond to the school. No one was hurt.

Using thermal imaging cameras, firefighters determined no fire had ignited behind the walls of the school.

The district and fire department partnered to share awareness of the challenge in the effort to prevent similar incidents.

Since Friday, there have been no other occurrences, district spokesman Dan Voelpel said.

“Tacoma Fire and Tacoma Public Schools encourages all parents to talk to their children about how dangerous these types of challenges can be,” according to the safety alert shared by the district.