Service Call Files: Fire Marshall Says I Can’t Use Extension Cords

Learn why extension cords pose risks and safer alternatives.

At Prairie Electric, we receive all kinds of service calls. Some have to do with residential issues and appliances. Others come from business owners with service questions. At Prairie Electric, we’re here and ready to meet all of your electrical needs, including answering questions about industrial, residential, and commercial projects.

“The Fire Marshall Said We Couldn’t Use Extension Cords”

The call we’re addressing today is common among business owners at this time of year. When receiving this type of call, we ask a few key questions:

  • Is your business housed in an older building? If you and your employees work in a building erected prior to 1980 that has not been fully rewired since, your risk for an electrical fire increases. Frayed and faulty wiring can fail, causing erratic lighting and even sparks, which can create fire.

  • Are your circuits overloaded? The circuitry in older buildings was not built to handle the electrical output required in modern offices. Circuits can become overloaded, especially when extension cords are used to power additional computers, lights, and other devices. Installing more outlets in your workspace can also help reduce the need for extension cords.

  • What kind of work area is it? If your work area is damp or includes solidly conductive objects like those in a wash bay, extension cords must be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). A GFCI guards against accidental electrocution and fires by interrupting the flow of electricity the moment it senses a ground fault or leak. However, they do not work unless installed properly. Buildings that have not been updated in over 20 years probably do not have GFCIs, which may be one reason for a fire warden to ban a property owners’ use of extension cords.

  • What type of extension cords are you using? Inexpensive extension cords made from flimsy materials are not advised and can lead to fires.

  • Are your outlets GFCI-protected? As mentioned above, ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets should be part of every outlet in your building, as they prevent circuit overloads and the damage that can come from such an event. If your outlets are not protected, contact Prairie Electric immediately to have them upgraded. The safety and efficiency of your business depends on it.

Depending on your answers to the above questions, there could be many reasons why your fire warden has asked you not to use extension cords at your facility or office. If you would like further clarification or are interested in upgrading your business, call the experts at Prairie Electric today!

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