Electrical fires can be deadly, and in many cases they can be prevented.
The common cause? An overloaded circuit.
Power strips and extension cords are pushed to the max every day, pulling more power than they can safely handle.
You may think they're convenient ways to plug in lots of things that need power, but just because you can fill up the outlets, doesn't mean you should.
Depending on what you plug in, you could overload the strip.
"What people typically do is they'll plug multiple big things into it because they think, boy, six, five plugs here, that's a lot of power," said Marc S. Bashoor, fire chief. "Well it's no more power than the plug on the wall."
Appliances like space heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, washers and dryers should never be plugged into a power strip or extension cord.
Manufacturer guidelines for big appliances warn they should only be used on a single outlet circuit. If you plug them into an extension cord or power strip, the strips can overheat, smoke and cause a fire.
Smaller things like lamps, cell phones and laptops pull less electricity and are safer to use with power strips and extension cords.
But not all power strips are made the same.
The United States has a safety standard -- those products are labeled with a U-L (Underwriters Laboratories. Products manufactured outside the US may not follow the same standards.
"You need to feel safe about your power strip and the way to feel safe about it," said Bashoor. "The number one way is to look for that U-L listing."
A good power strip or extension cord with the U-L label will cost more and a certified power strip with a surge protector is even better.
Despite paying a few extra dollars, when it comes to protecting your home and family from a fire, it can be priceless.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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