The holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year. However, for many families the excitement of the season will come from events they never anticipated. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 130,000 fires will be reported during December – claiming more than 400 lives and causing more than 1,600 injuries.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International invites you to help make this holiday season a memorable one by making safety a priority. Here are some simple steps that you can take to keep your family and home safe this year.
Brighten your home the safe way
- If you bought new decorations this year, send all warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers. That way, they can notify you promptly in case of a safety recall.
- Before you begin putting up decorations, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning installation and maintenance.
- Inspect your older decorations – even ones that are only a year old – before plugging them into an outlet. Frayed or bare wires, cracked light sockets and loose connections may cause a serious electric shock or start a fire.
- Be careful not to mount or hang light strands in any way that might damage the cord’s insulation. Never nail or staple light strings or extension cords.
- Connect a maximum of three light strands together.
- Run light and extension cords from the tree to an outlet that’s not in the normal traffic pattern, but allow yourself enough room to easily unplug them.
- To avoid overheating extension cords, don’t run them under furniture or carpeting.
- Unplug electrical decorations before replacing lightbulbs or fuses.
- Turn off lights and other decorations when you leave the room or go to bed.
Understand the risks of christmas trees
- When selecting a tree, check for freshness to minimize the fire hazard caused by dry needles.
- Right before you put up the tree, lower the risk of an electrical fire by cutting an inch or so from the base of the trunk so it readily can absorb water.
- Check the water level in the stand daily.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
- Whether it’s artificial or freshly cut, position your tree at least three feet from all sources of heat.
- Be sure that smoke detectors are installed in your home, and use the holidays as an excuse to change their batteries.
Respect electricity outdoors
- Before using electrical products outdoors, make sure the product is approved and marked “for outdoor use.”
- Make sure electrical and extension cords are in good condition. Cracking and fraying are signs that a cord needs to be replaced.
- Protect all outdoor extension cords and light strands from the elements, and keep them clear of snow, ice and standing water.
- For electric shock protection, plug outdoor lights and electric decorations into circuits protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy a portable GFCI if your home’s outdoor outlets are unprotected.
- Don’t place extension cords across sidewalks, driveways or other high-traffic areas.
- Always stay at least 10 feet from power lines or other electric co-op equipment, especially if using a ladder.
Prevent electrical fires in your kitchen
- To be electrically safe while you’re cooking, keep an eye on what you’re doing. Ranges and ovens are the leading location for home fires.
- Never leave a child unsupervised while cooking or when a cooktop is within reach. Unattended cooking is one of the primary causes of home fires during the holidays.
- Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen and that it is quickly and easily accessible.
Pretend you’re a kid!
- Get on your hands and knees, and survey the world from a child’s perspective. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces and electrical outlets.
- Avoid putting tree lights, ornaments and other small “mouth-size” decorations on the lower limbs of a Christmas tree where a child easily can reach them.
- Keep young children away from all power and extension cords. Besides being in danger from a shock, a child can choke on as little as 12 inches of cord.
- When visiting friends and relatives, remember that their homes may not be childproofed. Look around to make sure there are no obvious hazards to your child.
- To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
Help pets understand
- Your four-legged family member is apt to make a toy out of just about anything in and around your home, so get a pet’s-eye-view of your Christmas tree, wrapped gifts and decorations. Anything that’s within reach (or a quick jump) is a potential plaything, so try to eliminate these distractions from pets.
- The same frayed electrical cord that delivers an electrical shock to an adult may have enough voltage to kill a dog or cat. As a result, keep electrical cords away from puppies and kittens so they don’t chew on them. If you have difficulty getting your pet to stop chewing on a cord, paint it with a bitter-tasting polish or wrap the cord in a thick plastic sleeve.
- Avoid putting small and breakable ornaments, metal hooks and ornaments that look like food on the lower limbs of the tree.
Play it safe after the holidays
- Holiday electrical decorations are meant for temporary use. During the first week of January, take down, inspect and store all decorations for next season.
- Use the gripping area of the plug when unplugging lights and other decorations. Yanking or tugging on the cord can damage the wires and insulation, possibly leading to an electrical shock or fire.
- Separate and label indoor decorations from outdoor ones.
- Discard broken or faulty lights.
- Store decorations away from children, pets and water.
- Post-holiday sales are a great time to buy lights and other electrical decorations certified by a recognized, independent testing laboratory such as underwriters Laboratory (uL). Look for energy- saving LED lights that save up to 80 percent of the electricity used by the standard ones you’re replacing.
- Don’t use holiday decorations year-round; many are designed only to be used a couple of months a year.