Extension cords can cause fire, injury and death - AmericaNowNews.com

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Extension cords can cause fire, injury and death

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Extension cords are handy tools that provide power where we need it. But used inappropriately, these cords of convenience can pose a fire, shock and electrocution danger.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates about 3,300 residential fires are caused by faulty extension cords each year. These accidents result in about 50 deaths and 270 injuries annually.

Extension cords overloaded with too many devices or high-wattage appliances like a microwave or space heater, can cause them to overheat and start a fire.

Using an infrared camera, we were able to see the amount of heat in an extension cord powering a space heater.

In about 15 minutes, the infrared camera shows the cord glowing white as it heats up to a dangerous temperature.

Tom Link is a battalion chief with the Charlotte Fire Department in North Carolina. He recommends homeowners make sure their extension cords are able to handle the amount of electrical current required by an appliance.

"If you are going to purchase [an electrical cord], get one that is heavy enough to exceed what you need to put on the device that is going to be connected to it," Link advises. 

If you touch the cord and it feels hot, immediately unplug it, and replace with a heavier-gauge cord that can carry the electrical current safely.

Extension cords should not be used to compensate for inadequate home wiring, because they could spark a fire.

"I suggest people refrain from using electrical cords for long periods of time. They're temporary," Link says.

If you need power in an area of you home that doesn't have a wall outlet, Link suggests you hire an electrician to install one for you.

Keep extension cords away from children and pets, because they have a tendency to put things in their mouths.

"When they bite down on an electrical cord, that can cause some serious injuries, serious burns, horrific burns," Link warns.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says electrical burns to the mouth account for half of the extension-cord-related injuries involving young children.

Before purchasing an extension cord, look for a certification label from an independent testing lab such as Underwriters Laboratories or Electrical Testing Laboratories.

Cords with this certification label meet current industry safety standards.

Use special, heavy-duty extension cords for high-wattage appliances such as air conditioners, portable electric heaters and freezers.

Never cover an extension cord with rugs or other objects because if it is covered, heat cannot escape, and that could cause a fire.

Don't overload cords with too many appliances. Instead, find another outlet to plug them into.

Be sure to select the appropriate length cord. If you use an extension cord over 100 feet, the power begins to be lost.

If an extension cord is damaged, cut it with wire cutters before tossing into the trash. This will prevent anyone who might try to salvage the faulty cord from using it in their home.

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Additional Information:

Click here for information about extension cord ratings.

The National Fire Prevention Association has several educational resources pertaining to electrical hazards in its "Risk Watch Electrical Safety Lesson Plans" (Source: http://www.nfpa.org/riskwatch/pdfs/electricalsafety/NFPA_RW_ELSP_G78complete.pdf).

Click to read "CPSC Warns Consumers About Faulty Extension Cords, Power Strips and Surge Protectors" (Source: http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/PRHTML99/99069.html).

The following tips are from the CPSC:

  • Look for a certification label from an independent testing lab such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories ) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) on the package and on the product itself. Products with this certification label meet current industry safety standards. For extension cords, look for a permanently attached certification label on the cord near the plug. For power strips and surge protectors, inspect the underside of the casing and make certain that it is marked with the manufacturer's name and the testing lab.
  • Use electrical cords, power strips and surge protectors that have polarized plugs with one blade slightly wider the other, or grounded three-pronged plugs. These features reduce the risk of electric shock.
  • Use special, heavy duty extension cords for high wattage appliances such as air conditioners, portable electric heaters and freezers.
  • Extension cords used outside should be specifically designed for such use to guard against shock.
  • Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs are exposed when the cord is in use.
  • Never cover any part of an extension cord with rugs or other objects while it is in use. If the cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which can result in fire.
  • Don't overload cords with too many appliances. Change the cord to a higher-rated one or unplug and relocate appliances to other outlets.
  • Make sure cords do not dangle from the counter or table tops where they can be pulled down or tripped over.
  • If a cord feels hot to the touch, stop using it and throw it away.
  • Replace cracked or worn cords.
  • Don't use extension cords to compensate for inadequate home wiring. Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go online to: SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC's Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired.

 

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