Preventing fire and electrical hazards during the holidays
It's that time of year again. The Christmas spirit is in the air and no doubt many people have begun preparing for the big day. These preparations usually include extravagant lights and decorations both indoors and outside the home.
While these decorations look beautiful and add to the "Christmas mood", they could also pose a serious hazard if you are not careful. If not installed correctly, Christmas lights can cause devastating fires or physical injury through electrocution. However, there are steps you can take to minimize these risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
When it comes to lights and other electric decorations, be sure to purchase only those that are "UL-listed".
“UL” is short for Underwriters Laboratories, an organization which has been testing and approving products for consumer safety since 1894. Underwriters Laboratories performs safety testing on 18,750 categories of electrical, mechanical and chemical products. Underwrites Laboratories is not affiliated with the companies that make these products so consumers can be assured that their seal of approval is genuine and a true indication of the safety of an item.
You must also ensure that you read the labels on your products carefully to determine if it is suitable for use indoors or outdoors. This is crucial as indoor decorative lights will not be able to withstand direct exposure to rain and other elements. Using them outdoors can result in electric shock and fire hazards. Indoor lights will carry a green UL mark while lights that are suitable for outdoors will carry a red UL mark.
All lights should however be manually inspected before installed regardless of whether they are brand new or being reused from previous years. They should be inspected for signs of damage like exposed wires and broken bulbs. Do not install any decorations that are damaged. Broken bulbs on a string of lights may be easily replaced, however make sure that the wattage of the replacement bulb is the same as the string of lights you are using. Remember to unplug your lights before changing bulbs or making any other repairs. if your lights or other electric
decorations show damage to cords and plugs, it is better to discard and replace them. The cost to buy a new one will be far less than the damage that will be sustained if the item causes a fire.
Before you begin to hang your lights, you should find out how many strands are safe to connect end to end. Generally, it is safe to connect three strands.
If a ladder is required to hang lights in high places of your home, try to use a ladder that is made of wood or another non-conductive material. Using a metal ladder increases your risk of electric shock. Make sure to place your ladder on a firm, level surface and away from slippery surfaces and power lines. Make sure your ladder is dry and you are wearing slip resistant shoes, to prevent a fall.
Christmas lights are usually left on all night long however this is a dangerous practice. It is recommended that they be turned off before you go to bed or whenever you are leaving the house. Lights should only be turned on when you are able to monitor them and respond quickly to any issue that may arise. Avoid using metal tacks, nails or screws to secure your lights as these can pierce and cause damage to your lights. Use insulated hooks instead.
With regards to Christmas trees, be sure to purchase one that is flame resistant. It may seem like a minor detail, but consider that the US fire departments respond to an average of 160 fires each December that start from Christmas trees igniting. Luckily, in Trinidad, artificial trees are used which reduces the risk substantially. Christmas tree fires are still possible as it is easy for any tree, real or artificial, to catch fire when electrical sockets are overloaded. Even flame retardant or flame resistant artificial trees can eventually succumb to a fire as their resistance wears off when completely consumed in flames.
You must therefore take great care to ensure that your lights and other electrical decorations are in good condition and showing no signs of damage. You should also ensure that your tree is placed away from candles, space heaters or other forms of direct heat.
Monitor young children around your Christmas tree as they may be attracted by the bright lights and decorations and attempt to pull them down.
When all your lights and decorations are hung, you will need to plug them into a power source. Most likely you will need to use extension cords. Be sure to verify the wattage rating of any extension cords you may be using as well as how much power your lights will need. Overloading your extension cords can cause overheating which may lead to fires. Place your extension cords in a way that will not pose a tripping hazard and try not to pull them to their limit. They must not be straining to connect with your lights.
These rules may seem overwhelming, but taking the time to practice these safety measures will ensure that you and your family can enjoy the holiday season without fear or worry. If it is still too much for you to take on, we at TriniHelper are here to assist and bring your Christmas decorations to life in a safe and secure way. Don't hesitate to give us a call!