An extension cord is an insulated, flexible electric wire fitted with a plug at one end and one or more outlets on the other. It is a convenient tool to use when electrical equipment can’t reach an outlet.
These important safety tips can help to keep your home and/or office safe from electrical hazards:
- Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. Unplug and safely store them after each use.
- Never use a cord that feels hot or is frayed or damaged. Touching even a single exposed strand can cause electric shock or burn.
- Make sure extension cords are properly labeled for their intended use (indoor or outdoor), and meet or exceed the power needs of the appliance or tool being plugged in.
- Do not run extension cords through walls, across doorways, ceilings or floors. This may cause the cord to overheat, creating a serious fire hazard.
- Insert the plug completely so that no part of the prong is exposed when the extension cord is in use.
- Do not nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards.
- If an extension cord is needed for a longer period of time, temporary power taps can be used when insufficient electrical receptacles are available. These devices may have three to six electrical receptacles, a circuit breaker, a 6-ft. to 15-ft. cord and a surge protector, and should bear the mark of a certified testing organization.
- Ensure that all extension cords are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL, CSA, or ETL. Also, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Facts and Statistics
Extension cords are a leading cause of electrical fires, and can cause serious injury, and even death, if used improperly.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- An estimated 3,300 residential fires originate from extension cords each year.
- Approximately 300 people are seriously injured or killed each year in situations involving extension cords.
- More than half of the injuries caused by people tripping over extension cords involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains.
- Continual use of an extension cord can cause the insulation to deteriorate, which creates a dangerous shock and fire hazard.
A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your electrical needs. If this is the case in your home or office, we strongly encourage you to have additional outlets installed by a licensed electrician.