To keep yourself and your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends following these guidelines for extension cord use:
Use extension cords only on a temporary basis. Use polarized cords with polarized appliances. Polarized plugs have one blade that is slightly wider than the other blade and can be inserted only one way into an outlet. Polarized plugs help ensure grounding and are used with appliances that could have a higher risk of electric shock. Replace old or worn cords with new, No. 16 gauge cords that have safety closures and the listing of a nationally recognized testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories. Industry safety standards now require that general use extension cords come with safety closures and warning labels. In addition, UL-listed cords must be made with No. 16 gauge or larger wire. The No. 16 gauge wire is rated to carry up to 1,560 watts as compared to formerly used No. 18 gauge cords that were made to carry only 1,200 watts. Make sure cords do not dangle from countertops or tabletops where they could be pulled down or tripped over. If a cord lacks a safety closure, cover the unused outlet with electrical tape or a plastic outlet cap. Insert plugs fully so no part of the prong is exposed. When disconnecting cords, pull the plug rather than the cord. Teach children the dangers of plugs and outlets. Use only three-wire cords for appliances with three-prong plugs, and never remove the third (or U-shaped) prong, which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of electric shock. Check the plug and the body of the extension cord while the cord is in use. Some warming of the plastic parts is normal, but if the cord feels hot or there is a softening of the plastic, this could indicate that the connections are failing and the cord should be replaced. Never use a cord while it is looped or coiled. Don't use staples or nails to attach cords to baseboards or other surfaces. Don't overload cords by plugging them into items that draw more wattage than the wattage rating indicated on the cord. Use special heavy-duty cords for higher wattage appliances such as air-conditioners, portable electric heaters and freezers. Use only outdoor extension cords for outdoor lights or appliances. Never place a cord where it could be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic. Never cover any part of the cord with newspapers, clothing, rugs, etc. Where furniture or beds may be pushed against an extension cord where the cord joins the plug, use an "angle extension cord."