Yes, the holidays should be merry and bright, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns consumers that the holidays bring the dangers associated with the improper use of decorative lighting. By avoiding such hazards as dried out Christmas trees, unsafe lights and unattended burning candles, thousands of holiday-related injuries can be prevented. By all means enjoy yourself this holiday season, but make following the fire/electrical safety tips outlined below a priority in your merrymaking so as to avoid any mishaps.
•· Look for the label "Fire Resistant" when buying an artificial tree. While this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does signify the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
•· Check for freshness when purchasing a live tree. You can do this by looking for deep green trees whose needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
•· Be sure to place trees (artificial or live) away from fireplaces and radiators. Live trees dry out quickly in heated rooms so be certain to keep the tree stand full of water at all times.
•· Place trees out away from traffic paths and do not block doorways.
•· Use only lights that have been tested for safety by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or another recognized testing laboratory. A UL label indicates the lights conform to certain standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
•· Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same type and wattage bulbs. Using the wrong bulbs can cause overheating.
•· Connect no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.
•· Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
•· Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
•· Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
•· When hanging light strings, stay away from the electric power lines that may run from utility poles to your home.
•· Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other mean of supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through plastic hooks.
•· Since damage or a short-circuit could quickly start a fire, turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
•· Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights - they could unravel.
•· Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs have been installed on exterior circuits in new homes since the 1970s and can be added as a safety retrofit in older homes.
•· Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
•· Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
•· In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep tree trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
•· To avoid eye and skin irritation wear gloves and glasses or goggles while decorating.
•· When using artificial snow sprays, follow container directions carefully to avoid lung or eye irritation.
•· Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
For 12 toy safety tips for your holiday gift giving, visit Consumer Report's blog at http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/ Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online at www.royalhomeinspectors.com
Each year fires occurring during the holiday season injure up to 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips about preventing Christmas tree fires, inspecting holiday lights, holiday decoration safety and holiday candles you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Royal Home Inspectors L.L.C.