Holiday Safety Tips
The holiday season is filled with festive parties, colorful decorations, and dazzling lights. However, the things that make holidays so special and memorable can also pose as serious electrical hazards. Each year approximately 1,300 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to the improper installation and use of holiday lighting and decorations. In addition, Christmas trees are involved in about 500 fires annually, resulting in an average of $20 million in property loss and damage each year. As you celebrate the holidays with your loved ones this winter, stay safe with these tips regarding trees, lights, decorations, and fireplaces.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate that the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, make sure it has fresh, green needles. Trees that have dried out over several weeks are quicker to ignite.
- When setting up a tree at home, make sure to place it least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents, and televisions.
- Make sure the tree is out of the way of traffic and does not block doorways.
- Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Use only lights that have been safety tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Look for the UL label on the box and on each string.
- Before plugging in the lights, check each string for broken sockets, frayed cords, or faulty plugs. Make sure to replace damaged strings.
- Keep extension cords in good condition. Use only UL-approved cords rated to carry the electrical load you will connect to them.
- Don’t overload extension cords by plugging in too many decorations. You should use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Keep electric cords away of high-traffic areas. Don’t stretch them across a room where people can trip over them. Furthermore, make sure not to hide them under rugs or carpets.
- Don’t attach cords or lights to metal objects.
- Always unplug lights before going to bed or leaving your home to prevent the lights from shorting out and starting a fire.
- Outdoors, use only lights and cords rated for outdoor use. Don’t lay cords across sidewalks, decks, or other walkways.
- Make sure to fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Another option is to run the string of lights through hooks that are available at hardware stores.
- Check your light strings to determine the maximum number of strings that may be connected. For push-in bulbs connect no more than three strings; for screw-in bulbs connect a maximum of 50 bulbs.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Use care with “fire salts” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.