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Must-Read 2016 Holiday Decorating Safety Checklist

The holidays come and go so quickly. Perhaps it’s because of the rush that comes with the holidays – rushing to buy presents, prepare for family gatherings, and decorate your home all while many are still working full time. A lot of families stow away their decorations each year for reuse, including the electrical equipment they use for lighting up their homes with festive décor. But there may be safer products out there that reduce wire clutter, the risk of power shortages, and the risk of home fires.

The ESFi has offered up numerous online resources for shoppers, electrical safety, fire prevention, etc. for holiday decorators. We’d like our readers to follow their safety checklist.

  • When purchasing electrical equipment, make sure it’s undergone independent safety testing by nationally recognized testing laboratories. Look for their labels. Three nationally recognized testing laboratories are Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Intertek (ETL), and Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  • Purchase from trusted retailers so you run less risk of ending up with counterfeit products.
  • Read everything on the labels of decorative lights or electrical equipment. Weather resistant/outdoor equipment should only be used outdoors and indoor equipment should only be used indoors.
  • It’s a good idea to send warranty and product registration forms to the manufacturers of the products you purchase. This way, you can be notified if the product your purchased undergoes a recall.
  • When buying a natural tree, find a well-hydrated one with vibrant green needles that aren’t brittle. And although sap may be annoying to wash off your hands, choose a sappy tree.
  • Make sure your tree stand can hold enough water to keep the tree hydrated.
  • If you decide on an artificial tree, make sure it’s tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  • When it comes to lighting, take note that LED lights:
    • Last up to 20X longer than “incandescent” lights
    • Generate less heat – which means they are more energy-efficient and possibly safer depending on how you use them
    • Designed with “epoxy” lenses, which are more durable than glass
    • Are more expensive, but more energy-efficient
    • Don’t burn as bright as incandescent holiday lights

Safety Checklist For Your Christmas Tree

  • A fresh tree lasts longer and is less of a fire hazard.
  • Before you place your tree in the stand, cut 1-2 inches from the base of its trunk so it can absorb water better
  • Make sure your tree gets water daily. Especially if it’s in a heated room, which will dry it out faster.
  • Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including (but not limited to) fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters.
  • If you’re trimming your tree, use only flame-resistant materials.
  • If you’re using a fake tree, don’t use electrical ornaments or string lights over its metallic leaves or branch coverings.

Candle Safety Tips

  • Consider using battery-operated candles instead of regular candles – some are designed to give off aromas much like normal candles.
  • Never leave a lit candle unattended for any amount of time, long or short.
  • If you’re lighting a candle, make sure it’s in a place where it cannot be easily knocked over.

Extension Cord Safety Checklist

  • Never plug two extension cords together. Purchase an extension cord long enough for your needs.
  • Make sure your electrical equipment is certified by UL, ETL, or CSA.
  • Don’t leave extension cords plugged in for too long. And make sure to wrap them up and place them somewhere safe, away from children and pets, every night after turning off your lighted decorations. They can be a safety hazard if left plugged in or even on the ground where they can be stepped on or tripped over.
  • Never place extension cords near/under carpets, rugs, furniture, or where a lot of people walk.
  • Never nail or stable them to walls or baseboards – this can damage the wire insulation and lead to an arc-fault, which could lead to a fire.
  • Never attempt to remove the ground pin (the bottom prong) to make a cord fit into a two-prong outlet (an outlet with two slots).
  • If you’re using an extension cord outside, make sure it’s designed for outdoor use. If you’re using an extension cord inside, make sure it’s designed for indoor use. And make sure it meets or exceeds the powers requirements of the item you’re plugging it into.
  • Never run extension cords through walls or ceilings. This could cause your cord(s) to overheat and cause a fire hazard.
  • Make sure when you plug in your extension cord(s) they’re fully plugged in, and no prongs are exposed.

Childproofing Checklist

  • Make sure you read and follow to the letter all warning labels on decorations, toys, etc. Make sure if you’re to give your child a toy, it is age appropriate for them and plan accordingly for adult supervision.
  • If you have children, using battery-operated candles may be a much safer option than regular candles. Children may not understand how dangerous regular candles can be.
  • If you’re using strings of light or garland to decorate your tree or any other area of your home, make sure your child knows that they are not playthings. They can pose a serious strangulation hazard.
  • Try to avoid using decorations that are brittle or sharp. If you do use decorations, such as ornaments that are brittle or sharp, make sure they are fully out-of-reach for children.
  • Avoid placing any mouth-sized ornaments (even metal hooks) or other decorations in the reach of children. For instance, place small ornaments near the top of your tree, out of a small child’s reach.
  • Wax fruits, holly berries and similar decorations can present a choking hazard. Make sure they are out-of-reach for small children.
  • Use plastic caps on unused outlets.
  • Never allow children to play with the decorations or cords you use in your home.

Outside Decorating Safety Checklist

  • Make sure any extension cord(s) you use outside are designed for outdoor use
  • Make sure your extension cord(s) match your power needs (amperage rating)
  • Any outdoor electric lights should be plugged into circuits protected by Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Make sure all lights, decorations, and extension cords you plan to use are not damaged in any way, shape or form.
  • Fasten the lights you put up securely to the house, your tree etc. with firm support that in no way could damage the cord’s insulation.
  • All extension cords and lights should be kept away from spots that gather water or snow.
  • Keep spotlights a safe distance away from flammable items and ensure they are well-ventilated so they do not overheat
  • Before using ladders, inspect them for missing screws, hinges, bolts, nuts etc. – make sure they are sturdy enough to hold your weight
  • If you’re using a ladder to put up lights, use a wooden ladder instead of a metal ladder, which conducts electricity.
  • Make sure your ladder is the right height – extending at least three feet past the edge of your roof.
  • Avoid decorating near power lines.
  • Do not overload outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. This can cause your outlet to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
  • Make sure no cords are pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture. This could damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Make sure that before you replace any bulbs or fuses, you unplug cords and decorations on that same circuit.
  • Always turn off your outdoor decorations before leaving your house or before you go to sleep.

Indoor Decorating Safety Checklist

  • Make sure you purchase your indoor decorations from a reputable retailer.
  • Make sure your decorations are certified by UL, ETL, or CSA.
  • Avoid connecting more than three strands of incandescent lights together.
  • Consider LED lights as opposed to incandescent lights. They use less energy and they run cooler.
  • Determine how many outlets are available and where they are located so you can plan your decorating without causing wire clutter or placing too many decorations in outlets.
  • Carefully inspect all electrical outlets for damages. If they are damaged, don’t use them.
  • Follow the care instructions written by the manufacturer of your electrical decorations.
  • Do not overload outlets – this could cause them to overheat and potentially create a fire.
  • Never mount electrical cords or decorations in a way that could damage their insulation (ie. poking holes through them)
  • Always unplug your decorations from the wall (make sure all lights are off) before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Remember to turn off all decorative lights before leaving your home or going to bed.

With all of these safety measures taken seriously, you shouldn’t have to worry electrical fires, candle fires, child accidents or any type of accidents taking place while you’re decorating your home or place of business.

We’d like to extend a warm Happy Holidays from Palermo Tuohy Bruno, P.L.L.C.