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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.
- 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.
“The Most Dangerous Holiday of the Year” – July 4th. That is, according to Forbes Magazine. And they’re right. It’s 1 out of maybe 10 holidays that almost all Americans celebrate. The great John Adams saw to that, when he declared July 4th to be a “great anniversary Festival…solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Guns + Fires + Parades = Danger. At least he states the importance of wearing shoes.
All jest aside, it’s a dangerous holiday and we need to recognize that and learn how to celebrate safely. Let’s make a very simple, straightforward list of why July 4th is literally one of the deadliest holiday weekends in America. Let us also make some suggestions on how to be safer this July 4th.
If You’re Not a Pyrotechnician, Don’t Light Fireworks.
There’s good reason for the stringent laws surrounding pyrotechnics. A lot of people simply don’t realize that they’re handling a weapon. They’re dangerous, just like cars, and for that reason they should not be handled by someone who is not a licensed professional. Some enthusiasts purchase illegal fireworks, which have grave potential to injure anyone in the vicinity when they go off, especially if handled improperly. Some of these illegal fireworks yield more firepower than those found at professional firework shows, handled by professionals.
But believe it or not, the fireworks that most often cause injuries are the smaller ones…especially if they have short fuses and are handled incorrectly. We’re not saying smaller fireworks are more dangerous, but think about the kids. Even a sparkler can cause serious burns if not handled properly. Just check out this Newsweek Article on Firework Injuries – they are meant to be handled by professionals and only professionals. So, simply stated, if you want to see fireworks, go to a fireworks show.
Don’t get burned.
If we’re going to talk about burns, we can’t forget about barbecues. They seem innocent, right? That is, until you have kids running around – and that’s usually the case on July 4th. It’s a really good idea to keep the barbecue area, and the area between the barbecue and the food table, closed off. A child running into the chef or the barbeque itself can cause serious injury. A little caution tape could help, as well as making it very clear to the children that the cooking area is off limits.
Keep the pool safe.
The kids get hyped. They’re with their best friends, neighborly friends, their cousins, and they’re likely overly excited for pool time. If you’re unsure of their swimming abilities, make them wear floaties. It’s one thing when you and your child are by yourselves hanging by the pool and you have a close eye on them…it’s a totally different ball field when your pool becomes public. The last thing you want is a swimming pool accident. And then there’s the heat. The heat can seriously get to you, your children, and your pets. If you start to feel nauseous, feel a rapid heartbeat or start to breathe at a rapid pace, get to a cool place quickly. This could mean heat exhaustion. Keep your children, your pets, and yourself hydrated – it’s looking to be quite hot this July 4th. And don’t forget your sunscreen either.
Never drink and drive, and don’t let anyone around you do it either.
Don’t be that person, and don’t let that person next to you be that person. Pensicola News Journal reported in 2014 that roughly 40% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents recorded over the previous years happened on one day: July 4th. Is that not staggering? So, we can safely say this holiday is not a good time to be on the road.
This year, July 4th occurs on a Monday. Not so convenient, right? Remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving. You may end up driving across town to that block party yourself. You may end up losing your inhibitions and having a few drinks, but you still need your car for work tomorrow. Luckily, there’s a service located on Long Island that will literally drive to you and drive your car home so you have it ready for work the next day. IDriveYourCar has put together a simplistic business model to save lives. Palermo Tuohy Bruno, P.L.L.C. does not endorse this service, but we do believe it’s worth looking into.
We urge you to take all of these tips into consideration. We fought hard for our right to freedom. And we have every right to celebrate it happily. But it’s crucial to recognize how dangerous this holiday can be, and to take the right precautions. Have a happy 4th of July, but make sure it’s a safe one.