Instead of adding to the joy and happiness of the season, decorations that are put up without a watchful eye to safety can leave you with a sorrowful mess. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 1,170 home structure fires start each year with decorations (and that figure does not include fires that began with the tree).
As a reminder of what you need to watch for, check out these holiday decorating safety ideas:
Before You Put Up the Lights
Use Only the Recommended Types
- Double check whether your lights are intended to be used indoors or outdoors and follow the suggestions of the manufacturer. Use only lights that have either the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL) designation.
Eliminate Damaged Items
- Before putting up the lights, examine each string looking for frayed or damaged cords or sockets. Throw away any strings that are damaged. Using them raises the risk of electrical shock and of a potential fire.
When replacing the damaged lights, consider getting light emitting diode (LED) decorative lights. Those use 90% less energy than incandescent lights and are considered a safer alternative because they generate less heat.
Putting Up the Lights and Decorations
Don’t hang lights on nails!
- Stay safe. Instead of nails, make sure to use insulated holders or plastic hooks that are made especially for electrical wires.
- As with the strings of lights, examine the cord for frays or damage before using it. Make sure to run the cord along the baseboard to avoid creating a tripping hazard. Do not run the cord under rug that will be walked upon. The friction generated could fray the cord and cause a fire. When using a cord outside, try to elevate extension cords to keep them away from animals.
Don’t Overload Your Plug
- Use one long extension cord, rather than 2 or more short ones plugged into each other. When stringing miniature lights together, a good rule of thumb is to stick to no more than 3 strands.
Outside, Keep the Meters and Outlets in Mind
- When placing your decorations outside, make sure that access to utility equipment, including outlets and meters is maintained. For safety sake, remember that your house number needs to remain visible. So, do not cover it up with decorations.
Once the Lights are Up
Use Them Only When You’re Home and Awake
- Turn off the holiday lights before you leave home and when you go to bed at night. This will not only make you safer, but it is more energy efficient. Set a light timer, if you are afraid you will forget.
Christmas lights are a favorite way of many to enjoy the season. Follow these tips to be safe with your holiday decorations and continue to bring light, joy and sparkle to your holiday.
Seasons Greetings from Your Barker, Beck, Collins & Kronauge Team!