Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect opportunity to decorate the landscape and exterior of your home for the holidays. If you plan to decorate this year, it’s important to remember that doing so presents some fire and safety hazards.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 12,500 people go to emergency rooms to be treated for injuries, such as falls, cuts, and shocks related to holiday lights, decorations, and Christmas trees. Accidents do happen; but many are preventable if we just take some time and a few precautions while decorating outside.
1. Only use lighting sets and extension cords that are specifically made for outdoor use. They’ll have the Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) label.
2. Know how many sets can be strung together. It will usually be printed somewhere on the package, on a tag on the cord itself, or on a paper within the package. Usually, it’s 3.
3. Before you start, check all light sets for fraying, aging, and heat damage and throw out sets that show any signs of damage. Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses or making any other repairs.
4. Always test your light sets before starting. Replacing broken and burnt-out bulbs is much easier on the ground than on a ladder or roof.
5. Connect sets of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into an outlet. Be careful not to overload extension cords.
6. Use hooks or insulated staples to hold lights in place. Do not use nails or tacks.
7. Never pull or tug lights to remove or disconnect them.
8. To avoid potential shocks, plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with GFI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection.
9. Make sure to observe all safety precautions for the ladder. Know the weight limit restrictions. Avoid contact with overhead power lines when setting up your ladder. Make sure that it is set on solid ground. Have someone working with you to steady the ladder as you climb up or down.
10. Keep any connections between light sets and extension cords dry by wrapping them with electrical tape or plastic.
11. Check the wire on the Christmas lights occasionally to make sure that they’re not warm to the touch.
12. Always turn off all Christmas lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house. You can hook up a simple timer so you don’t have to worry about forgetting.
For more holiday decorating safety tips, check the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission website. (link to http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Newsroom/News-Releases/2004/CPSC-Announces-Holiday-Season-Decorating-Safety-Tips/)