Extension Cord Safety

  • Purchase only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • For outdoor projects, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use.
  • Read the instructions (if available) for information about the cord’s correct use and the amount of power it draws.
  • Select cords that are rated to handle the wattage of the devices with which they’ll be used. A cord’s gauge indicates its size: The smaller the number, the larger the wire and the more electrical current the cord can safely handle.
  • Also consider the length you’ll need. Longer cords can’t handle as much current as shorter cords of the same gauge.
  • Choose cords with polarized or three-prong plugs.
  • For use with larger appliances, thick, round, low-gauge extension cords are best. For smaller appliances and electronics, you can use thin or flat cords.

Using extension cords

  • Never remove an extension cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
  • Avoid powering multiple appliances with one cord.
  • Never use indoor extension cords outdoors.
  • Don’t plug multiple cords together.
  • Don’t run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Never tape extension cords to floors or attach them to surfaces with staples or nails.
  • Don’t bend or coil cords when they’re in use.
  • Cover unused cord receptacles with childproof covers.
  • Stop using extension cords that feel hot to the touch.

Caring for extension cords

  • Always store cords indoors.
  • Unplug extension cords when they’re not in use.
  • Throw away damaged cords.
  • Pull the plug—not the cord—when disconnecting from the outlet.

And remember that extension cords are intended as temporary wiring solutions. If you find you’re using them on a permanent basis, consider updating your home’s electrical system.

Today’s Homes Burn Faster

A fire in a modern home is a “perfect storm,” according to safety consulting and certification company UL (Underwriters Laboratories). Larger homes, more open layouts, new construction materials and other factors mean fires burn more quickly, leaving less time for occupants to escape — and for firefighters to stop the flames. How much less time? About 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to get out of the house once it caught fire. Today? Just three or four minutes.

A lot goes into creating that “perfect storm,” experts say. Here are some key factors:

  • Building materials. Particle board and other man-made materials, which are lighter and cheaper than natural wood, often are used to construct homes today. This leads to larger homes at a lower cost, but they also burn more quickly than solid wood, concrete or masonry.
  • More space — and more stuff. Fires can spread quickly in homes that are largely open, with high ceilings, etc. And homes that are bigger typically have more things in them — which means there’s more fuel for the fire.
  • Newer stuff. The old days of couches, carpets, etc., made from all-natural materials are long gone. That’s great news for durability and price, but it’s not great for limiting fires. Though many modern furnishings are excellent at resisting smoldering (such as if a cigarette is dropped), once they actually catch fire, they burn very quickly.

What can you do? Well, unless you’re having a house built or doing an extensive remodel, you can’t really change the materials used to construct your home. However, there are a few things you should do immediately to help keep you and your family safe, no matter where you live:

  • Make sure your smoke detectors are in working order.
  • Create an escape plan for you and your family.
  • Place fire extinguishers on each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

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Types of Fire Extinguishers

A fire is a fire, and a fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher, right? Well, not quite. There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each. So, which is right for you? We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association:

  • Class A: Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.
  • Class B: Fires in flammable liquids, like gasoline, or flammable gasses, such as propane.
  • Class C: Fires in energized electrical equipment, such as appliances or motors.
  • Class D: Fires in combustible metals.
  • Class K: Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats.

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous. So, how do you pick a fire extinguisher? Do you need several? A good bet is a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

  • An extinguisher that’s large enough to put out a small fire but not too heavy to handle safely.
  • One that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • One for each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher — or try to fight a fire with any method — make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the fire small and contained?
  • Are you safe from toxic smoke?
  • Do you have a way to escape?
  • Do your instincts tell you it’s OK?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side. Once the fire is out, remain aware, because it can re-ignite.

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet. Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

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The year-end holidays can be a time for beautiful home decorations, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission warns of an increasing number of injuries from consumers stringing up festive lights and other holiday decorating activities. During November and December 2010, CPSC estimates that more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations. This is an increase from 10,000 in 2007 and 12,000 in 2008 and in 2009.

Estimates of deaths and injuries related to fires from Christmas trees and lit candles are down, but there are still an alarming number of incidents says the CPSC. Between 2006 and 2008, there was an annual average of four deaths and $18 million in property damage related to Christmas tree fires. During this same time period, CPSC received reports of about 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses related to candle fires.

The CPSC has UL suggest the following 12 safety tips to help keep your holiday home safe this year:

  1. Check for freshness when buying a live Christmas tree. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and don’t break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and, when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  2. Keep trees away from heat sources. Fireplaces, vents, and radiators can rapidly dry out live trees and increase the risk of flammability. Be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water and monitor water levels daily. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
  3. Check for a “Fire Resistant” label when buying an artificial tree. It indicates the fake tree is more resistant to catching fire. But still exercise caution since an artificial tree, like a live evergreen, can still catch fire.
  4. Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations when trimming a tree with children. Keep trimmings with small removable parts or ones that resemble food or candy out of children’s reach to avoid choking dangers.
  5. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
  6. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Chose a place where kids and pets cannot reach or knock over burning candles. Lit candles should also be placed away from flammable items—trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  7. Use only lights that have been tested by nationally-recognized laboratories, such as UL. Decorative indoor and outdoor lights must meet strict requirements. UL’s red holographic label signifies that the light decorations meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor usage. UL’s green holographic label signifies the lights are safe for indoor use only.
  8. Check each set of lights for damage. Discard decorative light sets with broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  9. Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use. Indoor extension cords should not be used for outside lights.
  10. Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
  11. “Fire salts” should be used with care. The salts, which produce colored flames when thrown into lit fireplaces, contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed. Keep them away from children.
  12. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

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Understanding the Fire Restoration Process

The longer the delay in contacting a restoration company, the more opportunity there is for damage from water and smoke to intensify. A homeowner’s insurance company should be able to refer an approved and experienced restoration firm, or you also are within your rights to hire whomever you see fit to handle the project. It is surprising just how well restoration works in light of how destructive a fire can be. Depending on the damage, a home can often be restored to its before-fire state. A restoration team has a difficult task to perform, and a great deal of responsibility, but properly certified and trained technicians are well-equipped to return a home to its original condition.

The fire restoration process involves the repair of any structures damaged by smoke, fire, or water. Carpets undergo a chemical process to remove smoke odor. Sub-floor materials undergo inspection for damage and may need to be replaced. Upholstery and curtains are subject to a similar process. Furnishings are taken to a separate location and restored to pre-fire condition. The home is aired out for as long as needed to diminish the effects of odor and mildew, and deodorization efforts continue throughout the process. Through the cooperation of the insurance company, the restoration team, and the homeowner, a home can be restored and made safe to live in once again.

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Top Causes of Workplace Fires

Each year, fire erupts at some 70,000 U.S. workplaces, killing 200 employees, injuring thousands, and causing billions of dollars in property damage. Most workplace fires are the result of human behavior rather than equipment failure, which means they can be prevented with a proactive program reinforced by training. Keep reading to find out the most common causes of workplace fires and the simple strategies that can keep your facility safe.

Heating equipment, such as improperly installed, operated, or maintained furnaces. Every furnace or heater has minimum clearance distances on all sides and above; make sure to keep material and building components away from this area. Never store combustible material in furnace rooms. And do not use temporary heating units in public buildings.

Electrical. Misused, overloaded, damaged, or improperly maintained electrical equipment is a common cause of workplace fires. Do not leave cords coiled up when plugged in. Only use extension cords for temporary power for equipment in use at the moment. Use multiple outlet strips for computer equipment, not for appliances or other electric equipment. Avoid overloading circuits.

Cooking equipment. Microwaves, coffeemakers, and stoves can cause fires if they are misused. Make sure all break room equipment is equipped with smoke detectors. Never leave cooking unattended, and follow microwave popcorn instructions carefully.

Mechanical friction. Improperly maintained or cleaned mechanical equipment can lead to a fire. Keep bearings properly lubricated and aligned. And keep conveyors and mobile equipment cleaned and free of accumulations of combustible material.

Housekeeping. Poor housekeeping practices are a common cause of fire. Avoid excessive storage of boxes and other combustible material. Make sure stored material never blocks exits, walkways, electrical panels, or emergency equipment.

Proximity hazards. Watch out for hazards outside of buildings, such as other buildings within 100 feet of your site. Other hazards include nearby fuel tanks, dumpsters, and weeds, grass, and brush.

Smoking. If you still permit smoking in your facility you may want to reconsider. Unauthorized smoking or poor setup of smoking areas can put everyone at risk for fire.

Special hazards. Take extra precautions if you have cutting/welding and other hot work that can produce flames, slag, or sparks. Other special hazards include flammable liquid storage and handling; spontaneous combustion from oily rags, chemicals, hay, and leaves; commercial cooking equipment; and LPG and natural gas.

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Proper Smoke Odor Removal

Professional smoke odor removal is important not only to eliminate unpleasant smells, but because lingering smoke can pose a health hazard. Exposure to particles caused by fires can be harmful to one’s health and should be dealt with as soon as possible. There are a few steps homeowners can take while waiting for professional help.

  • When it is safe to re-enter the house, circulate the air as much as possible. Open all windows and doors and use fans to ventilate the area.
  • Mop floors and make sure everything dries thoroughly to prevent mold growth.
  • Items made of brass and copper should be cleaned within 24 hours to prevent them from etching.
  • Vacuum carpets to remove dirt and dust particles that trap unwanted smells.

To completely rid the house, one smoke odor removal process that is utilized is called thermal fogging, which is a procedure used by professional cleaners. Thermal fog is a process in which a fluid is vaporized and then condenses when it meets a cooler atmosphere temperature. The particles that are created are extremely tiny and mimic particles created by fire, heat and pressure. This technique is one treatment that is proven to eliminate odors.

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