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5 ways to keep your home office from becoming a fire hazard

So many of us are working from home these days that our work desks have transformed into highly personal spaces. And just like the rooms we live in, we’ve filled our desks with all manner of equipment, accessories and doodads.

Working from home doesn’t require a large amount of new gear, but a working microphone, speaker, camera and computer are all must-haves to keep those paychecks coming. Tap or click here to see the best budget laptops you can buy.

If you’re plugging so much equipment in at once, though, you’re opening yourself up to another risk beyond COVID-19: electrical fires. Here are a few essential safety tips you can use so your work-from-home setup won’t be another danger to worry about.

Too hot to handle

Public safety advocates at UK-based Electrical Safety First are urging workers to take precautions when setting up their homes for remote work.

Electrical devices, though much safer nowadays than in the past, still have the potential to spark and ignite if set up improperly. Tap or click to see 5 surge protector options you can safely use with your gadgets.

ESF’s primary concern relates to extension cords and power strips, which allow people to plug multiple devices into a single outlet. While this sounds fairly normal, a survey conducted by ESF revealed that 44% of participants admitted to “daisy chaining” their extension cords, which is when you plug a second power strip into the first one to gain more sockets.

While you can provide power and extra reach, daisy chains can make connections highly unstable. ESF recommends avoiding this at all costs, and making sure a working fire alarm is in place in your home for emergencies.

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If you use a power strip, make sure the number of devices you’re plugging in fit the slots on your cord. Also, check the rating of the extension before plugging any appliances in. If you exceed the rating, you could cause the plug in the wall to overheat.

Here are some basic rules from ESF to follow if you’re working from home:

  1. Keep your workstation clean and free of liquids. Drinks can spill and short out your plugs.
  2. De-tangle the cables on your desk and try to avoid letting cables hang. Putting excess weight on cables or exposing them to friction from tangles can cause them to fray and potentially spark.
  3. Always use certified charging cords or the cords that come with your devices. Cheaper off-brand cords aren’t as closely regulated and can start fires.
  4. Never “daisy chain” extension cords.
  5. Be extra cautious while cooking. Leaving a stove, toaster or pot unattended can result in a fire.

Bonus: Don’t sleep on it

Do you use your phone in bed or have it charge under your pillow? Sounds comfy, right? Well, stop that — beds are highly flammable! Your phone warms up as it charges, and if it’s in a nice toasty area, it can start a fire.

Related: Fake smoke detectors can mask hidden cameras

ESF recommends placing any charging devices on a hard, fireproof surface to prevent accidental sparks from occurring. If you’ve ever seen how twisted and exposed an iPhone charging cable can get, you already know exactly what the risk looks like. Don’t take the chance.

Electrical safety might seem like an afterthought in light of the pandemic, but you can’t put a price on your safety. Why risk making your life harder when all emergency services (including the fire department) are already stretched thin? Stay safe and don’t forget to set your phone somewhere safe when you’re charging it.

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