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Lighting and Fire Safety Around the Holidays

Glowing colorful party light bulbs close up

Holiday fires are the worst. It kills us to see the damage done to homes and businesses. And it’s usually preventable. We are all so busy during the holidays that sometimes caution gets thrown out the window. Please don’t let that happen to your home or office. A few tips may just save your holiday – and health!

As you string up the lights, prepare that special meal, or light a cozy fire, take a quick look and review these holiday safety tips.

Deck the Halls Safely

  • Check used light strands for frays or cracks, and replace empty bulb sockets with new bulbs. And plug them in before you string them! It’s always good to know beforehand that they’re working well!
  • Replace damaged light strands with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved merchandise. Red UL markings are safe indoors & outdoors; green UL markings are indoors only.
  • When decorating outside, keep ladders and decorations away from power lines. Make sure the ladder is stable before you begin climbing. It’s always good to have a partner nearby when you’re on a ladder too!
  • Some DON’Ts concerning your ladder: Never stand on the top step (or top cap) of a ladder, place a ladder on an unstable base, or move a ladder with someone on it.
  • Never use a hammer and nails to secure outdoor lighting to your house. Instead, purchase special lighting clips made just for this purpose.
  • Outdoor lights and inflatable decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to prevent electric shock.
  • Limit the load on outdoor extension cords to three strands per cord, and only use approved, heavy duty extension cords.
  • If using a live tree, cut two inches off the trunk before placing it in your tree holder. Remember to keep the water level full. Consider setting an evening reminder every day to check the water level.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic Christmas tree. The tree can become electrically charged if metallic needles become lodged in a light socket.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources, and never block a doorway with your tree.
  • One last note: more and more often now, window washing companies are installing and storing decorations for families. Now, that’s convenient. . . and safe!

Avoid Fire Starters

  • Never place candles where they are within the reach of children or pets, or where they might easily be knocked over.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Consider keeping them in a locked cabinet or store them high above a child’s reach.
  • Try using flameless electric candles that are powered by batteries. You can set timers to come on daily – and use them year after year!
  • And if it’s the scent of the candles that you want, try a candle warmer to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Never burn trees, greenery roping, wreaths, or wrapping paper in your fireplace. The inks used on wrapping paper can be toxic when burned.
  • Use a fireplace screen on your fireplace at all times when a fire is burning. Sparks can fly out quickly and ignite something close by.
  • Make sure all embers have been extinguished before you go to bed at night. Spread them out and wait for the heat to dissipate before you turn in. Wait overnight or longer for them to cool before you dispose of them.
  • Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep. Set a timer for outdoor lights to go off so you won’t have to remember.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually. Keep the area around the fireplace free from clutter and dust.
  • Be informed about the dangers of turkey fryers. Consider finding a local restaurant instead. If you must fry your own, do it outside away from structures like homes, cars, and decks. Do NOT use a fryer or grill in your garage!
  • Never leave cooking food unattended, whether on the stove or in the oven. Plan your meal accordingly, taking advantage of early preparation and reheating.

The holidays can be a joyful time for family and friends to gather. Staying informed about the risks associated with seasonal lighting and decorations can help ensure your memories will be warm and happy. Enjoy the season!