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Extension Cords: Plugging In Safely

Electrical extension cords are plugged in everywhere in homes across the country. They're generally safe and offer convenience and flexibility. However, extension cords can be dangerous if not used properly.

Each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC also estimates that extension cord misuse causes an estimated 3,300 home fires annually.

By following a few simple safety practices when using extension cords, you can reduce the risk to your family.

  • Use extension cords on a temporary basis only. If necessary, add extra outlets or place electrical devices closer to an outlet.
  • Replace any worn or frayed extension cords and inspect them before use.
  • Fully insert prongs into outlets. When disconnecting extension cords, remove them by the plug rather than the cord itself.
  • Keep electrical cords away from foot traffic and make sure that they are not covered by rugs or furniture.
  • Don't overload extension cords by using them to plug in appliances that draw more watts than the cord rating.
  • Use only extension cord with three-prong plugs for devices with three-prong plugs.
  • Never use nails or staples to attach a cord to a baseboard or other surfaces.
  • Outside, use weather resistant, heavy-gauge extension cords marked for outdoor use.

When purchasing or replacing extension cords, look for those listed for safe use by a nationally recognized testing organization, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).

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