While holiday decorating is all about adding fun, sparkle and warmth to the season, it’s important to remember that many of our favorite decorations carry the risk of fire or electrical injury if not used carefully. Findings from the Electrical Safety Foundation International consumer survey indicate that more than 86% of Americans decorate their homes as part of their winter holiday celebrations. Almost two-thirds of respondents use electric lights in their indoor decorating scheme, while more than half use lighted decorations outside their homes. More than 60% of those who decorate their homes for the holiday utilize at least one extension cord. FAEC wants to help you prevent accidents which would surely take the enjoyment out of your holidays – therefore, we suggest you to take a few minutes to read our decorating safety tips.
LIGHTS AND DECORATIONS
• When shopping for lights, electric decorations and extension cords, purchase only the ones that are UL-listed.
• If you’re planning to decorate outdoors, make sure that you use lights and decorations that are rated for outdoor use. Putting indoor-only products outside in the weather can result in electric shock and fire hazards.
• If you’re in doubt as to whether light strings are rated for indoor or outdoor use, just check the color-coded UL mark on the product’s package. A green holographic UL mark says, “indoors only, please,” while a red one indicates that the product is safe for both indoor and outdoor use.
• Inspect all lights, electric decorations and extension cords for signs of damage to wire insulation, plugs, and bulbs. If the damage can be repaired (i.e. broken bulbs replaced), do not use the item until the repair has been made. If cords and plugs are damaged, discard them and replace the decoration.
• Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses, or making any other repairs.
• If you need to replace a bulb in a string of Christmas lights, make sure that the wattage rating of the replacement bulb you’re using matches that of the light strand. Using a bulb with too high a wattage can cause the light string to overheat, creating a fire risk.
• Always turn off all Christmas lights and decorations before going to bed, or leaving the house for any amount of time.
BUYING A CHRISTMAS TREE
Your choice of Christmas tree could affect its flammability factor. Older, dried-out trees ignite and burn much faster than those that are freshly cut and well hydrated, so when you’re shopping for a natural (live) Christmas tree, keep the following things in mind:
• Before taking a Christmas tree home, make sure that its needles are fresh, green, and firmly attached to the branches. Bend the needles between your fingers – if they break, the tree is too dry. Also check that the tree trunk’s cut surface is sticky to the touch. As a final precaution, pick the tree up vertically and tap the trunk against the ground; if needles fall off, move on to another tree.
• As a general rule, Christmas trees with thicker needles take longer to dry out, so a robust variety like the Noble Fir is a good choice.
• If you opt for an artificial tree instead, be sure that it’s made of flame retardant plastic.
SETTING UP YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE
The way you set up and care for your tree has a big effect on how long it will last, how beautiful it will stay, and, ultimately, how safe it will be to have in your home.
• Before putting your new Christmas tree into its stand, cut a couple of inches off the bottom of the trunk to expose fresher (and far more absorbent) wood. Taking a few minutes to do this will improve your tree’s ability to absorb water, last longer, and make it harder for your tree to catch fire.
• Your tree stand should have a capacity of at least one gallon, which is the amount of water that the average 6-foot Christmas tree can consume in a day’s time. As a general rule of thumb, live Christmas trees require one quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter.
• Water live Christmas trees daily.
• Position tree a minimum of 3 feet away from candles, fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, heat vents, and other heat sources.
• Because nearly half of all Christmas tree fires involve electrical malfunctions, it’s extremely important to check that light strands and other electrical decorations are in good condition (free from insulation cracks, fraying wires or damaged bulbs and plugs) before decorating your tree with them.
OTHER HAZARDS TO CONSIDER
• Animals-keep animals away from the tree and especially cords by taping them to the wall to prevent them from being chewed on.
• Children-childproof your decorations by placing them out of reach, covering outlets, and avoid using decorations that are sharp, small or breakable.
• Candles-never leave flames unattended, place candles away from combustible materials.
FAEC offers these Holiday decoration safety suggestions based upon our many years of investigating the causation of too many fires during the Christmas Holidays. We hope this information will help you and yours to have a very bright, cheerful and glorious holiday season this year, and for years to come.To find out more or to submit an investigation request, visit our website at www.forensic-analysis.com