I was lucky enough to report an electrical engineer this week. His credentials are PH.D., P.E., and CFEI. I had set up for real-time with my iPads on the conference room table. Before the deposition began, the witness turned to me and said in a kind voice, “You need to throw this away. It’s very dangerous.” He had picked up my iPad charging cord. Unbeknownst to me, the deposition was about whether a faulty wire had caused a huge fire.
After the deposition I thanked the witness for warning me about my dangerous cord. The other attorneys, whom specialize in fire accident cases, all chimed in telling me about past cases they had been involved in where a bent cord, smashed cord, frayed cord had caused catastrophic fires. I did some research about what they were telling me and was stunned to find out the following:
1. Even though an iPhone charger only puts out 5 volts at 5 watts/1 amp (an iPad charger puts out 12 watts/2.1 amps) it is more than enough power to cause overheating and the beginning of a fire. A frayed cable (like mine pictured above) can cook the battery by causing a short circuit, which again could cause a fire.
2. One attorney mentioned a case because of a bent power cord. My research tells me power and extension cords that are pinched, pierced, bent or otherwise damaged do not look threatening, but can cause serious fire and shock hazards.
3. Pressing furniture against an outlet (i.e., behind the couch) where a cord is plugged in is a potential fire hazard. Don’t have bent cords.
4. In your kitchen, don’t pinch the cord behind an appliance or wrap it around the toaster or kettle. That can damage the casing or melt the insulation around the wire.
5. Don’t run cords under carpets to keep them out of sight. The carpet will keep the cord from properly cooling, and it is easy to damage the cord with foot traffic or furniture.
6. Keep your pets from chewing power cords – super dangerous.
7. Never patch power and extension cords. Watch out for corroded or bent plug blades. It is better to replace the appliance than tape a damaged cord.
8. Don’t daisy chain cords together or use extension cords for a long-term purpose. Get a new outlet if you have to plug something in far from your existing outlets.
9. Dryer thermostats can fail allowing the dryer to overheat. If the main heating element fails, it can send molten metal into the drum, igniting your clothes.
10. Get into the habit of unplugging your appliances (coffee maker, toaster, kettle). Even though the appliance is not on, it is still being energized when it is plugged in. This habit plugged in. This habit can save not only energy, but lives.
11. One of the attorneys mentioned that is wife was foolish enough one time to leave the house with the dishwasher going. I mentioned I do that all the time. The witness and attorneys looked at me like I was crazy. Their serious advice is not to leave the house when any major appliance is running.
12. The witness said to never, ever have an energized device (laptop, iPhone, iPad…) rest on your bedding. If you have a habit of scoping or proofing in bed, it is incredibly dangerous. When your device is being energized, it gets hot, and the bedding doesn’t allow air into the fans, and a fire can easily happen.
I have read newspaper articles, seen warnings on the television about fires and electrical appliances and cords at Christmastime from lights and always thought to myself, “That would never happen to me.” What I learned at my deposition was it happens all of the time to all kinds of people. One of the things I love about being a court reporter is I get to meet all kinds of brilliant people. This deposition of an electrical engineer changed my life. I promised him I would be careful forever more.