An extension cord. It can be a handy, temporary way to place electrical equipment wherever you'd like it. But when used improperly, extension cords can cause fire, injury - even death.
This month, the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department join the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) in asking you to be alert to the hazards of inappropriate extension cord use.
Is there really a danger?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms.
About half of the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping.
Thirteen percent of the injuries involve children under five years of age; electrical burns to the mouth accounted for half the injuries to young children.
CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others.
The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords.
To reduce the likelihood of electrocution or fire:
- Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.
- Do not run extension cords under rugs, near water or where they may become a tripping, electrocution or fire hazard.
- Do not staple extension cords in place or suspend them with nails.
- In locations where furniture or beds may be pushed against an extension cord where the cord joins the plug, use a special "angle extension cord" specifically designed for use in these instances.
- When using outdoor tools and appliances, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.
- Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances.
- Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs are exposed when the extension cord is in use.
- Replace cracked or worn extension cords with new heavy duty #16 gauge cords that have the listing of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, safety closures, and other safety features.
The LAFD reminds you: use extension cords safely - your life may depend on it! For a free extension cord checklist, visit:
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department