Don’t let your ghoulish activities celebrating Halloween turn into a real fright. On average, 770 home fires begin with holiday decorations each year.
“Halloween is a cherished time of spooky thrills and neighborly bonding,” said Bill Urbanski, Health & Safety coordinator, Electric Operations, “Always think safety first. Don’t decorate near power lines nor release Mylar balloons or kites where they can get caught in power lines.”
Follow these top 10 tips to help keep your home and neighborhood safe during the holiday:
- Use battery-operated candles or glow sticks.
Candles start more than one third of home decoration fires. If you do use flame candles, do not leave them unattended; remember to blow them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Choose costumes that do not have long, trailing fabric.
Not only is long, trailing fabric a trip hazard, it can catch or tangle in other decorations and extension cords to cause a fire. Also, choose flame-retardant costumes.
- Be careful around kids.
Teach children to stay away from open flames. Never let children or pets play with lights, electrical decorations, cords, matches or lighters. Keep batteries stored safely in packages, placed where children and pets cannot ingest them. Have children carry flashlights or glow sticks when trick or treating at night.
- Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources.
A heat source that is too close to the decoration is a factor in two of every five home fires that begin with decorations. Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily.
- Keep exits/escape routes clear of decorations.
Don’t block escape routes and make sure all smoke alarms are working.
- Never overload electrical outlets.
Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are common causes of holiday fires. Avoid overloading outlets and plug only one high-wattage appliance into each outlet at a time.
- Inspect all electrical decorations for damage before use.
Cracked or damaged sockets, loose/bare wires or loose connections may cause serious shocks or start fires.
- Check decorations for certification label.
Decorations not bearing a label from an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL) have not been tested for safety and could be hazardous. Choose decorations that are flame retardant or flame resistant.
- Keep electronics in dry areas and away from combustibles. Phones and tablets, sometimes used to play holiday music, should be kept on a nightstand and not where overheating can catch a blanket or pillow on fire. Also, lights on a fish tank may seem like a cool idea – but keep electronics dry, away from water.
- Protect electrical cords from damage.
To avoid shock or fire hazards, cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors and windows, placed under rugs or across walkways or sidewalks, located near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples (use clips instead). Check for frayed wires, cracked sockets and excessive kinking. Also, don’t string more than three electrical cords together. Run a piece of electrical tape around the plugged connections on lights, etc., plugged to electric cords exposed to the weather.
Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)