Holiday Handbook: Tips for Safe Decorating
Adorning your home with twinkling lights this holiday season? Keep safety in mind, urges the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), inside and outside your home.
"Winter is the peak season for home fires, but these fires can be prevented by adopting a proactive approach to safety," says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Communications for the NFPA. "Understanding the hazards that are commonly associated with the holiday season and following basic safety guidelines can help ensure that the holiday season is happy and disaster-free."
"Electrical problems are factors in one-third of home Christmas tree fires," adds ESFI President Brett Brenner. "Be sure not to overburden your electrical system, and be vigilant for warning signs, such as blown fuses or flickering lights, that could signify a serious electrical problem."
To keep your household safe from fire this season, the NFPA and the ESFI recommend the following tips:
• Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
• Never leave an open flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight.
• Choose holiday decorations made with flame-resistant or non-combustible materials.
• Use only electrical decorations and lights that have been approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
• Carefully inspect each electrical decoration before use. Cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
• Follow the use and care instructions that accompany electrical decorations, and always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
• Keep young children away from holiday lights, electrical decorations, and extension cords to prevent electrical shock and burn injuries.
• Avoid plugging too many holiday lights and decorations into a single outlet. Overloaded outlets can overheat and cause a fire.
• Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord's insulation.
• Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together.
• Make sure any electrical decorations used outdoors are marked for outdoor use.
• Keep all outdoor extension cords and light strings clear of snow and standing water.
• Use caution when decorating near power lines. Contact with a high-voltage line could lead to electrocution.
• Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
Additionally, those purchasing Christmas trees should choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. (A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree.) Add water to the tree stand daily. If purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant. Ensure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.