With the holidays fast approaching, homeowners and businesses will be decking the halls; often with strings of lights and lighted decorations. Those lights are glittering and cheerful, but they can also cause hazards if they’re plugged into extension cords!
Before you untangle all of those light strings, consider that approximately 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
That’s because extension cords can overheat and cause fires when they’re used improperly. Keep these important tips from the ESFI and Little Sparkie Electric in mind to protect your home and workplace.
- Don’t plug extension cords into one another.
- Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the device being used.
- Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
- If used outdoors, cords should be GFCI-protected, either by plugging them into a GFCI-protected receptacle or by having GFCI protection themselves.
- Do not overload extension cords. A circuit overload SHOULD trip the breaker or blow the fuse, but it isn’t guaranteed. If the breaker or fuse is rated higher than the circuit wiring, the circuit may not open in an overload.
- Inspect cords for damage before you use them. Check for cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections. A break in a hot wire will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow a fuse, and is thus a fire hazard.
- This should be obvious, but do NOT nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards.
- Do NOT run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat can’t escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
- Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots. Again, this should be obvious, but never cut off the ground pin to force a fit, which could lead to electric shock.
- Buy only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
- Do NOT use an extension cord or power strip with heaters or fans, which could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.
Remember that extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. They’re not intended as permanent household wiring, so put them away when the holiday decorations come down!
If you need additional outlets, always have a licensed electrician install them. This isn’t the time to be a DIYer!
This isn’t just the time of year when we eat more than usual, it’s also when we have the most household accidents and fires, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, Inc. (ESFI).
With multiple strings of lights, electrical holiday decorations, candles and lots of cooking, it’s easy to see why. To keep your holidays from going from merry to scary, remember these ESFI Holiday Safety Tips:
1. Keep decorations at least three feet away from heat sources – especially those with an open flame, like fireplaces and candles. And remember to blow out your candles when you go to sleep or even leave the room.
2. When decorating, don’t run cords under rugs or furniture, out of windows, or across walkways and sidewalks.
3. If you have a natural Christmas tree, water it well to keep it fresh and safe. Real trees can dry up and turn into kindling in no time at all. Get rid of the tree after Christmas; dried out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage.
4. Always turn off your decorations when you leave home and when you’re sleeping. Most deadly fires happen while people are asleep.
5. Don’t overload electrical outlets. Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires. Avoid overloading outlets and plug only one high-wattage into each outlet at a time.
6. Be mindful of how you are using electrical outlets. If you’re using extension cords or adapters that add receptacles, consider having a qualified electrician add more outlets to your home. Extension cords are a common cause of home fires.
7. Only use electronics in dry areas. As tempting as it may be, don’t decorate your aquarium with icicle lights!
8. Keep your phones and tablets on your nightstand. We all love falling asleep to the muffled crooning of Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé, but overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.
9. Invest in a heater with safety features such as automatic overheat protection, cool touch exterior, a self-regulating ceramic element or a tip-over safety switch that turns it off in the event of it being knocked on its side. Read manufacturer’s instructions and any warning labels before first using it. Do not leave heaters unattended; turn them off before you go to sleep.
10. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
11. Keep batteries stored safely in their packaging and out of reach of anything that might try to eat them, like small children and pets. Eating a battery can be deadly.
Our best wishes for a safe and blessed holiday season,
Catherine and John Nazarene