The holidays are always a great time to be with family and friends, and for many, one of the most memorable traditions is decorating the home and yard alongside their loved ones. Stringing up lights, trimming the tree and putting candles in the windows is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit, no matter what else may be going on.
Sadly, festive decorations aren’t always a source for good cheer. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 30 percent of home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur between December and February. Furthermore, hundreds of children are taken to emergency rooms every holiday season for injuries caused by unsafe or improperly used extension cords.
Electrical safety during the holidays is very serious, but safety doesn’t have to come at the expense of fun. Follow these 5 tips from ESFI to enjoy the holidays without running the risk of an injury to yourself or those around you.
Avoid Decorating With Open Flames
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that throughout the year there is an average of 42 home candle fires every day. December is the peak month for candle fires, and decoration-related incidents are more than triple the usual monthly average. Rather than using real candles, consider battery-operated candles, especially if you are placing them near furniture, beds, curtains or Christmas trees. If you use glass-contained scented candles, set them on a candle warmer, rather than lighting the wick, for flame-free fragrance.
Use LED Holiday Lights Rather Than Incandescent Bulbs
According to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday lights cause 160 home structure fires each year, leading to about 9 deaths, 13 injuries and $9 million in direct property damage. Older incandescent bulbs generate most of their energy in heat, while LEDs are much more efficient and cool to the touch. Using LEDs will lower both your electricity bill and your risk of home fire. Also, LEDs have epoxy lenses, which are much more durable than the glass enclosures of incandescent bulbs.
Water Your Christmas Tree Every Day
A dry Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames in about 30 seconds. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that 1 in 3 home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. However, Rick Dungey of the National Christmas Tree Association tells homeowners that “if you water a tree, it’s practically impossible to ignite it.” Keep a bucket of water next to your tree and fill the tree base every day. Be sure to place the tree well away from candles and heat sources, and consider using LED lights.
Use a Surge Protector and Don’t Overload Electrical Circuits
The more items you plug into a single outlet, the higher the risk of electrical malfunction and fire. Although your home's circuit breakers are designed to cut off electricity when an outlet is overloaded, sometimes circuit breakers fail. Surge protectors are a good backup in these situations, but the safest choice is to limit the number of items plugged into a single outlet, and be aware of how much energy you're drawing from a single circuit. As a rule of thumb, never connect more than 3 strands of incandescent lights together.
Take Down Your Decorations With Care
Packing up your decorations safely is just as important as putting them up. Make sure to unplug electrical decorations using the gripping area rather than pulling by the cord, which can damage the wire or insulation. Take the time to inspect the cords in lights and discard those that are cracked or frayed. Separate and label indoor and outdoor decorations so you won’t get them mixed up next year, and keep all of your electrical decorations in a dry area that is not accessible to children or pets. Taking care of your decorations will help them last longer and lower the risk of fire or shock.
Electrical safety is a great habit to practice, especially around the holidays. Be sure to keep these 5 tips in mind as you deck the halls, and check out even more tips and safety statistics at holidaysafety.org. Happy Holidays!