‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving, when all through the home
Through boxes of holiday gear we started to comb.
Decorations and lights were strung up without care,
Not an outlet was empty, no power strip bare.
When down in the living room there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but…
…smoke and fire – oh dear!
Very few traditions are as unique to the holiday season as the practice of decorating our homes and yards with twinkling lights and festive decorations. While they definitely add to the magic of the season, some of our favorite holiday traditions also increase our risks for holiday fires and injuries.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure a safe, bright and happy holiday for your family. Give your holiday story a happy ending with these simple reminders from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
If you are purchasing new decorations, shop only at reputable retailers, and check to make sure the products have been approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Consider buying LED-type lights, which use less power and burn cooler than traditional incandescent lights. Always follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions that accompany your decorations.
Carefully inspect each electrical decoration and extension cord before use; discard any damaged items. Cracked sockets, bare or frayed wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or fire. Determine how many outlets are available and where they are located. Avoid overloading outlets, which can overheat and also cause a fire. ESFI recommends never connecting more than three strands of incandescent lights together. Do not pinch cords in windows or doors, or under heavy furniture, which can damage the cord’s insulation.
There are a few extra things to consider when decorating outside. Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlet outdoors. Make sure all decorations and extension cords are marked for outdoor use. Exercise extreme caution when decorating near overhead power lines. Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder instead of metal, which conducts electricity. Keep yourself and all of your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines. Outdoor extension cords and lights should be kept clear of standing water and snow throughout the season.
Christmas trees are an important holiday tradition for many families. If purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and is less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly. Place the tree at least three feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces and space heaters. Be sure to keep the stand filled with water. For artificial trees, look for the label “fire resistant,” indicating that the tree is more resistant to burning. Decorate your tree, live or artificial, with non-combustible or flame resistant materials. Never use burning candles on or near your tree.
Whether your house is the most festive one on the block or you prefer a more low-key decorating style, make safety an important part of your decorating tradition. Don’t let your holiday story end with a decorating disaster.
Electrical safety awareness and education among consumers, families, employees, and communities will prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities. Visit ESFI’s Virtual Home to learn more about home electrical safety.
Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International
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