Whether they’re traditional or modern, heirlooms or newly purchased, holiday decorations add a festive spirit to many homes and workplaces. They also account for a whopping 25 percent of home fires during the holiday season, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
The organization’s president, Brett Brenner, said that taking simple precautions will help minimize the risk of things you don’t want at any time of year: property loss or, worse, loss of life or injuries.
To that end, ESFI offers free educational resources including helpful safety videos, infographics, checklists and other resources to keep families safe during the holidays. (Information below.)
Here are basic decorating safety tips from ESFI:
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Water your Christmas tree daily.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “fire-resistant.”
- 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.
- Keep all decorations 3 feet away from heat sources, including space heaters and fireplaces.
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
- Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
- Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together, and consider purchasing LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
- Match power needs (amperage) of electrical products with an amperage rating of extension cords.
- 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.
- Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
Post-holiday safety tips
- With time, Christmas trees continue to dry out making them increasingly flammable. Trees decorated with holiday lights have an increased risk because they’re in direct contact with an electrical source. Check with your local community to find a recycling program through which to dispose of your tree early in the new year.
- Always unplug decorations by using the gripping area. Pulling on the cord could damage the wire and present a shock or fire hazard.
- As you take down holiday lights, inspect the wiring and discard any that have cracked, frayed, or appear to have damaged wire insulation.
- Make sure to label or store indoor decorations separate from those intended for outdoor use.
- Store electrical decorations in a dry area that is not accessible by children or pets.
ESFI’s website www.holidaysafety.org offers a variety of holiday safety resources and information to make safety a priority this holiday season. They include:
- Prevention: It's the Gift that Keeps on Giving (INFOGRAPHIC)
- Wrapping up the Holidays: Preventing Winter Fires (INFOGRAPHIC)
- Preventing Holiday Decorating Hazards Public Service Announcement Video
- ESFI Holiday Short Video
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school, and play. ESFI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.