Decking the halls is an almost obligatory part of the holiday season – and what’s more festive than a home covered in twinkly lights and garland? But with wrapping paper, decorations and wires galore, an abundance of electrical lighting can be dangerous. Winter fires account for 30 percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association. With this in mind, we’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of tips to help you and your family enjoy all of the festivities safely.
Before hanging holiday lights:
It’s important to ensure the area you’re decorating is clean and rid of clutter before hanging any lights. In addition to home prep, use these tips to purchase new decorations and vet your old ones.
1. Choose epoxy-lensed LED lights. If you’re purchasing new lights, these are a great option for families with pets and young children who may be fascinated by shiny objects. The lights are cool to the touch and easy on your energy bill.
2. Check before hanging. If you’re using lights from previous years, check to make sure there are no exposed wires, damaged plugs, or other issues before hanging. Also, check to make sure lights are certified as safe to hang outside if that’s part of your home décor. Additionally, check any extension cords being used for outdoor lighting to ensure they are rated for all types of weather and heavy use.
3. Consider upgrading. Think twice about using old, electronic holiday decorations. These may not be up to current safety standards and unsafe for your home.
4. String strategically. Be sure that lights aren’t running underneath rugs or carpets. String lights in order to avoid these, and remember to never allow wires to run across doorways.
It’s tempting to use the arm of your couch as a step stool to hang that last string of lights above the couch – but don’t throw all caution to the wind when you’re decking the halls.
1. Use a ladder. Make sure all four legs are on the ground, and when possible, ask a family member or friend to hold the bottom. Avoid leaning over to hang lights. Instead, step off the ladder and re-position it to prevent falling.
2. Choose an area wisely. Don’t hang lights over anything that could be a fire hazard. Lampshades or existing lights should be off-limits.
3. Opt for insulated hooks. Hanging wires and lights with metal screws and tacks can become electrified otherwise.
4. Wait for the big reveal. Don’t plug in your lights until after they’re hung. If a bulb breaks, it will expose an energized wire.
It’s easy to become mesmerized by bright lights and wintertime festivities. But before the sugar coma sets in from all the hot chocolate, remember the following:
1. Turn off lights when they’re not being used. Before falling asleep by the fire, be sure to shut off any holiday lights. Lights left on for too long could be potential fire hazards.
2. Limit extension cord plugs. Don’t plug in more than three sets of holiday lights to a single extension cord as it can overheat.
3. Ignite carefully. If you’re lighting candles during the holiday, be sure the flame is far from anything that could catch fire, especially Christmas trees. Also, never leave candles burning when unattended.
After ringing in the New Year, use caution when boxing up your decorations.
1. Recycle. Use any leftover cardboard from holiday presents and packaging to wrap your lights around to avoid having to de-tangle next year.
2. Unplug. When you’re taking down lights, be sure there isn’t any electricity running through them.
3. Coil it up. Create a loop with your extension cord, wrapping excess cord in a circle and hang. This makes for safe storage with minimal wear-and-tear.