Holiday decorating safety tips

Decorating your home, yard or office is a fun, festive way to celebrate any season, holiday or special occasion. However you get into the spirit of the season – from Halloween to Hanukkah, Christmas to Kwanzaa, Bar Mitzvahs to birthdays, and everything in between – here are some tips from Travelers Risk Consultants to help keep your family and friends safe around your decorative displays.

Lights and electrical décor

  • Purchase lights and electrical decorations (animatronic dolls, train sets, air-blown yard decorations, etc.) from reputable retailers.
  • Use lights that have been tested for safety – look for a certification mark from UL, CSA, ETL or other nationally-recognized laboratories. Consider using LED lights when possible – they run cooler, use less energy and last longer than incandescent lights.
  • Carefully inspect all lights and decorations for cracks, damaged sockets and loose or bare wires prior to use – these defects can cause a serious fire or shock.
  • Never exceed the maximum number of strings or devices that may be linked together, as indicated on decoration packaging.
  • Plan your displays according to the number and location of available outlets, and avoid overloading electrical outlets.
  • Unplug electric lights, devices and decorations before replacing bulbs, changing parts or attempting other repairs.
  • Turn off all lights and electrical decorations before leaving your home or office, or going to bed.


Outdoor decorations

  • Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of electric shock. Portable GFCIs for outdoor use can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.
  • Secure lights, decorations and cords to prevent wind damage.
  • Never staple, nail through or fasten electrical wires or extensions cords in any way that might damage the wire or insulation. This could cause electrical shock or fire.
  • Keep yourself, your decorations and equipment at least 10 feet from power lines.
  • Make sure decorations are well-ventilated, protected from weather and a safe distance away from flammable items.
  • Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when putting up electrical décor and lights outside as metal ladders conduct electricity.


Candles

  • If possible, use battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles to avoid the hazards of an open flame.
  • Place lit candles away from flammable or combustible materials, including other decorations, fabrics, plastic or paper products.
  • Do not put candles in places where they might be easily knocked over.
  • Never leave a lit candle unattended. Extinguish all candles before leaving a room or going to bed.


Packing and storage

  • Inspect and discard damaged decorations prior to packing and storing them.
  • Disassemble, pack and store all decorations according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Store decorations in a dry location that is out of the reach of children and pets, as well as heat sources and open flames.
  • Stack boxes in a corner or other stable location, and never higher than eye level to avoid injury or damage from toppling.
     

Source(s): Consumer Protection Safety Commission, http://www.cpsc.gov/; Electrical Safety Foundation International, http://esfi.org/.

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