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Help prevent fires and injuries by using your extension cords safely

Orange extension cord rolled upMany of the lights you’ll see on decorations this upcoming holiday season need electricity to power them. Often, decorators and designers turn to extension cords for help. While it’s convenient to have power in places where there’s no electrical outlet, extension cords can pose a fire and shock hazard if they’re used improperly.

Fires are often caused by damaged cords, overloading, misuse, or short circuits. We have some tips that will help you reduce the risk:

  • Remove carefully: Always pull on the plug when removing the cord from an outlet­—don’t yank on the cord to unplug it.
  • Keep dry: Place extension cords away from water.
  • Leave uncovered: Don’t position cords under carpets, rugs, or furniture. Also, never run extension cords through walls, ceilings, or floors.
  • Use one at a time: Don’t plug one extension cord into another.
  • Check for damage: If the cord is cracked, frayed, or nicked, don’t use it. Cut off the ends and discard it so no one else uses it.
  • Don’t pinch the cord: Flexible cords and cables must be protected from accidental damage from sharp corners, projections, doorways, or other pinch points.
  • Avoid altering: Never remove or cut off the ground prong.
  • Prevent damage: Use UL-approved cord protectors if the cord will be on the ground for more than a short period of time.
  • Use the correct cord: Never use indoor cords outside or to operate power tools. Outdoor cords are marked “Outdoor” or “WA.”
  • Turn things off: Make sure the item you’re going to operate is turned off before plugging it in. Also, if the outlet being used is on a switch, turn it off. If it’s not on a switch, unplug the cord at the end of the day before everyone leaves to help avoid overnight fires.
  • Put the cord away: If the cord isn’t in use, remove and safely store it. Leaving it plugged in creates an unnecessary hazard.
  • Use for power only: Never use an extension cord as a rope to secure items.

An extension cord that becomes hot during use is not rated to handle the amount of energy traveling through it. Stop using the cord and replace it with one that has a better rating (gauge). The lower the gauge number, the more energy the cord can handle. For example, a 12-gauge cord can handle more energy than a 14-gauge cord.

Extension cords are intended for temporary use—avoid using them in place of permanent wiring. If you’re planning on tacking, stapling, or nailing an extension cord in place, what you really need to do is install permanent wiring instead. In fact, federal regulations state extension cords can’t be used as permanent wiring. When installing permanent wiring, follow the National Electrical Code (NEC) and make sure a licensed electrician performs the work. Get a free copy of the NEC online at the National Fire Protection Association website.

Remember to use your power sources responsibly to help keep your customers and business safe. Your Hortica agent is ready to answer your questions and advise you on the best ways to minimize your risk. Talk with them today.

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For more information on safety preparation for your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.

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