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Christmas Safety Guide

Sometimes it feels like we’re just sprinting from one holiday season to the next. With the change in season comes the change in housing décor. Even if you don’t decorate for the rest of the year, Christmas lights are broken out in the winter by almost everyone. Unfortunately, string lights and decorating for Christmas are the cause of many accidents and home fires every winter season. This doesn’t have to be the case, however.

Christmas Decorating Safety:

  • Avoid candles – use LED candles instead
  • Never plug in more than 2 or 3 strings of incandescent LEDs at once
  • Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs
  • When climbing ladders, stand on a stable surface and work with a partner
  • Never overextend while on a ladder, climb down and move the ladder
  • Keep small decorations out of reach of small children
  • Don’t place flammable items (tablecloths, curtains, blankets) over bulbs or lamps

Of course, Christmas, holiday, and even year-round decorations are moving more toward electrical systems. Some are projected, others are simply carefully programmed light strings, but all of them use your house’s electrical grid. Just because they’re simple lights doesn’t mean you should be lax about how they’re connected. Even LEDs begin to tax an electrical system once you place too many of them on a single circuit.

Both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Electrical Safety Foundation International work to promote safety around the holidays. When it comes to electrical cables a few quick tips are to:

  • Outdoor lights should use outdoor rated extension cords
  • Any lights used outside should be plugged into GFCI receptacles and sockets
  • Turn off all lights before leaving your home or going to sleep
  • Keep high powered incandescents and spotlights well ventilated
  • Never put flammable materials close to high powered lights
  • Inspect all lights and decorations for damage prior to use (e.g. frays, damaged insulation, broken bulbs)
  • Never overload an outlet – multiple light strands on a power strip can be as bad as multiple lights on a single run

When and How to Use an Extension Cord

Extension cords are temporary measures for simple tasks. They are never meant to be permanent installations and they are not meant to help power high-load devices for extended periods of time. When using an extension cord, you should never:

  • Nail, staple, or pin the cord to surfaces (you could damage the insulation)
  • Use a cord that feels hot or is damaged
  • Remove the grounding pin from a plug
  • Use an indoor extension cord outside
  • Block walkways or high traffic routes

When using an extension cord you should always:

  • Use the shortest cord possible
  • Inspect all cords for damage before use
  • Insert plugs fully into sockets
  • Ensure that your extension cord has been certified by a testing laboratory (UL, CSA, or ETL)
  • Avoid pinch points, tripping hazards, and taut cables

Every year there are over 4,000 injuries and more than 3,000 home fires all as a result of improper extension cord use. Don’t let yourself become a statistic, be cautious when using an electrical extension cord.

Remember, it’s better to be safe than a statistic. Many people are injured from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day because of falls, shocks, and household fires.