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Surveys find that most Americans underestimate the risk of fires in their homes. As Wilmington premises liability attorneys, we know that over 3,500 people are killed in fires each year, and most of those fires are at home.

Most Americans take a casual approach to fire hazards around them. This is especially true when dealing with what professionals call “temporary electrical distribution systems”—extension cords, power strips, and multiple-outlet adapters. Improper use of those devices can create serious household electrical hazards.

We offer the following tips to our community, with the hope that this will help prevent North Carolina home electrical fires.

Extension Cords and Multiple-Outlet Adapters

  • Never buy these devices without labels showing certification from a reputable testing facility (e.g. Underwriters Laboratory) and with a maximum current rating (the amperage, or “amp” number).
  • Only use these devices for temporary use. Do not use them as permanent wiring. If you are still using them after eight weeks, reconsider your electrical needs.
  • Avoid daisy-chaining extension cords. Each additional extension cord in a series increases the total resistance of the line, and electrical resistance means greater chance of a fire.
  • Regularly inspect cords and adapters for physical wear-and-tear or signs of heat damage. If you find a problem, unplug the cord or adapter and bring it to a facility that recycles electrical devices or throw it away.
  • If you find an adapter or extension cord hot to the touch, turn off and unplug anything using that device. Do not reattach and turn on your appliances and electronics until you have readjusted the electrical load.
  • Never use a three-to-two prong adapter with extension cords or multiple-outlet adapters. Likewise, never cut off the grounding prong of a three-prong plug. Every item should be properly grounded.
  • Never use extension cords or multiple-outlet adapters with large, high-demand appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, and microwave ovens. Don’t even share a duplex wall outlet with those appliances.

Power Strips and Surge Protectors

  • Power strips combine the functionality of extension cords and multiple outlet adapters, so review the tips for those devices above.
  • Know the average functional lifetime of your power strips and surge protectors. Replace them when they exceed their usable lifespan—or, if your devices have indicator lights, when those lights indicate the surge protection has lost effectiveness.
  • Purchase and use only power strips with an internal circuit breaker.
  • Choose metal, rather than plastic, power strips.
  • Do not plug more than one power strip or surge protector into a standard duplex wall outlet.
  • Make sure the area where the power strip rests has adequate air circulation to carry away heat. Don’t place the power strip on combustible material.
  • Do not use power strips to deliver electricity to items with high-current electrical motors (power tools, refrigerators, window-mounted air conditioning units) or with heating elements (irons, coffee pots, toasters).

When Precautions Fail

Even if you are cautious about the use of electrical power in your home, you can still be injured when a fire breaks out in a restaurant, hotel, or other commercial space, or at a home you are visiting. If you have been injured in a North Carolina premises fire caused by someone else’s negligence, you may have legal rights to compensation for your losses.

Contact a Wilmington premises liability attorney from the Speaks Law Firm by calling 877-593-4233 today. We can schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our legal team, who can answer your questions and tell you what your case might be worth. At Speaks Law Firm, we believe every client is our most important client. Call today and let’s talk about your case.