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Limit Extension Cords To Reduce Risk Of Fire

Release Date: May 01, 1990

 If you use a lot of extension cords in your home or apartment, government safety experts say doing away with as many cords as possible can improve the safety of your home.

According to CPSC estimates, there are some 4,600 residential home fires each year associated with extension cords; these fires kill 70 persons and injure some 230 others annually. Apart from fires, another 2,200 shock-related injuries happen with extension cords every year.

CPSC offered the following safety hints for using extension cords:

- Don't use an extension cords unless absolutely necessary. If you do, it must be marked #16 or some lower AWG number (the lower the number, the larger the wire and the more current the cord can safely carry). Also, the cord should bear the certification label of an independent testing laboratory. Do not use #18 extension cords which were previously used for floor lamps and other low-wattage electrical products.

- Always use 3-wire extension cords for appliances with 3-prong plugs. Never remove the third prong which is a safety feature designed to reduce chances of shock or electrocution.

- When disconnecting cords from outlets, always pull on the plug rather than the cord itself. Discard any old, cracked, worn or damaged extension cords.

- Don't overload cords by plugging in appliances that draw more watts than the rating of the cord. You can check this easily by examining the cord to see what its wattage rating is. Use heavy-duty cords for high wattage appliances. Use extension cords labeled for outdoor use when powering tools and garden products outside the home. Also, it is good practice to plug into an outlet protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The device shuts down power in milliseconds if the consumer is exposed to an electrocution or electrical burn hazard.

- Don't run cords under carpets or rugs since they prevent heat from being released by the cord.

A free brochure on safe use of extension cords is available from CPSC by sending a postcard to Cords, Washington, D.C. 20207.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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