Extension cords provide a convenient method of bringing temporary AC power to a device that is not located near a power outlet. But, if not used properly, extension cords lead to electrical shock hazards, equipment damage, and fire hazards. In addition, improper cord selection can lead to use of an undersized extension cord resulting in an overheated cord and insufficient voltage delivered to the device. This condition can result in a device or cord failure and fire.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half the injuries involves fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords.
William and Mary is not immune to extension cord hazards. Improper extension cord use is identified as one of the most noted electrical code and safety findings on campus during EH&S inspections.