Safer Ways to Use Extension Cords

It’s one of the most commonly used electrical products in Indiana homes and workplaces. In fact, most people don’t give it a second thought. But just because extension cords appear to be simple doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous, cautions Rick Coons, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, extension cords cause about 4,700 home fires each year. They can even cause injuries and even death if you don’t use them correctly. Many of those injuries happen when people trip over or get tangled in the cords.

Indiana Electric Cooperatives says that extension cords should be used only for temporary needs. When you do use them, remember these basic safety tips:

  • Make sure that the cord has been approved by an independent safety organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Always check cords before use. Make sure the insulation isn’t damaged and the wires are not frayed.
  • Do not attach multiple extension cords together. Instead, get a single extension cord that’s long enough for the task.
  • Always use cords that are rated to handle the load. Make sure cords being used outside indicate that they may be used outdoors.
  • Replace old extension cords, because insulation can deteriorate over time. That can expose wires and create the potential for a shock or fire.
  • Do not run extension cords in areas where people will walk through. If you must, tape the cord down to minimize the risk of tripping.
  • Never run cords under rugs or carpeting, or through walls or ceilings. They may overheat and start a fire.
  • If a cord feels hot to the touch, stop using it.
  • Never staple cords to walls or attach them with nails.
  • Make sure you insert plugs all the way. Exposed plugs create a shock hazard.
  • Do not try to insert a three-prong plug into a two-prong slot or cut off the grounding pin. Doing so can cause a shock.
  • Unplug extension cords when they’re not in use.

If you keep using extension cords in the same place, you may want to think about having a new outlet installed. That will be a much safer solution, and much more convenient than having to run that extension cord again and again


SOURCES: Consumer Product Safety Commission, ESFI, National Fire Protection Association.