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Avoid an Extension Cord Fire With These 7 Tips

By Lisa E. Stafford
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 16, 1998 – Electrical extension cords are simple and so reliable we rarely give them a second thought. That mistake can cost you your home.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, simple precautions you can take will significantly reduce your risk of a cord-related house fire. Here are some:

  • Replace all extension cords after two or three years. Most cords are not intended for long-term use, so inspect them annually. If a cord frays or feels soft in any spot, throw it away.
  • Extension cords should always lie flat and straight. A bent cord will overheat at the kink, destroying the insulation over time.
  • Never put a cord under a rug or carpeting. Constant traffic will also wear away the cord's insulation.
  • Never put more than two plugs into any extension cord. Although some cords can receive three or more plugs, you run the risk of overloading the circuit and starting a fire.
  • Connecting a device that draws more power than your extension cord can handle will strain the device and overheat the cord.
  • Be cautious with appliances. Unplug small appliances, such as toasters, irons and coffee makers, when not in use. An appliance left plugged into a wall socket may cause a fire if turned on accidentally by a child or pet.
  • Do not use extension cords with refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines and other heavy duty appliances. Plug them directly into wall sockets.

If a fire occurs in your home, get everyone out first -- then call 911, emergency services, from a neighbor's.

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