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Holiday Fire Safety: How To Use Electrical Extension Cords Safely

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The festive season is a joyful time of year, yet with many people decorating their homes inside and out with fantastic light displays, it is essential to consider holiday fire safety.

Extension cords are a great way to make sure that the whole house can be decorated with wonderful lights, but misuse of electrical extension cords can have disastrous consequences.

Here are important holiday fire safety rules to follow:

  • Use the right type of extension cord for the job at hand. Two-wire extension cords are ideal for small appliances and are adequate for most indoor festive lights. Three-wire extension cords have a "ground" line and are safer for outdoor light displays.
  • Make sure that the extension cord is suitable for the plug sockets in your home. Never adapt a plug to fit the plug socket, since this presents a very serious fire or electrocution risk. And never overload a plug socket by using multiple-plug adapters. Running more than one electrical line from one plug over a long period of time is very dangerous, potentially causing sparks that could rapidly ignite and spread into a devastating fire.
  • Check that the "load" of the extension cord is suitable for the amount of lights that you are plugging in. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Be sure to read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord, and keep in mind your holiday fire safety as you make your selection.
  • Always check extension cords for damage or deterioration to the insulation. If the inner wires are exposed, the extension cord should be disposed of safely and should not be used. Plugging a damaged extension cord into the electrical system of your home risks not only a very disappointing holiday season, but the lives of yourself and your loved ones.
  • Never pull on the cord to unplug an extension cord from the wall socket, since this can cause internal and external damage to the wiring, compromising its structural integrity. Always remove the plug from the wall plate by grasping the plastic plug back and pulling it free. Not only will this help prevent damage to the cord and the plug socket, therefore improving your holiday fire safety, but it will also reduce the risk of injury and electrocution.
  • Do not place cords under furniture or rugs, and do not use them in close proximity to flammable material and accelerants such as gasoline. If an electrical fault occurs and the wire sparks, it could ignite any textile, wood, paper or chemical fuel sources nearby.
  • Do not plug two cords together to increase the total length. It risks an overload of the fuse systems in place in each extension cord and may also affect the brightness and intensity of your light display. Go buy cords of the needed length.
  • Leaving an extension cord coiled while it is in operation is not conducive to holiday fire safety. The wiring may overheat, melting the insulation and creating a fire risk. Spread it out as much as you can, or get a new extension cord of a more appropriate length for your needs.
  • Make sure that the extension cords you are using are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approved. This means that they have been certified as safe and well constructed.
  • Turn off all festive decorations when you leave the house or go to bed. If there is no electricity running in the extension cords and related wires, the risk of fire is dramatically reduced.
  • Finally, make sure that all your family members are aware of holiday fire safety rules and procedures. Make sure that all bedrooms have safe escape routes, test all your smoke alarms weekly, and ensure that everyone knows what actions to take should a fire break out.

Always be aware of the holiday fire safety procedures in your home. Check the materials surrounding electrical outlets and extension cords. By being observant, you can ensure that the festive season is a safe and fun time for everyone.

If you take the time to consider the basic steps of holiday fire safety, you and your family can have a safe, stress-free, happy holidays.

Content provided by Helium Inc. This information is provided for your convenience; it is not intended as insurance advice. The views, opinions, and advice expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not those of Homesite Group Incorporated. Please consult your insurance carrier or agent for information regarding your policy or coverages.
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