One of the most joyful times of year has an unfortunately high number of fires due to Christmas decorations. From 2007 to 2011, there was an annual average of 230 home structural fires that originated from a Christmas tree and an average of 150 home fires caused by decorative lights, according to research by the National Fire Protection Association.
Safety is a priority
The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness states that the most common causes of home electrical fires are overloading outlets, misusing extension cords, leaving lights on when asleep or not home and using old or worn out lights, appliances and electrical cords.
Making safety a priority could save your home and the lives of your family members. Choose decor wisely and inspect it closely to ensure that the quality of the products and the way that you use them won’t put you in harm’s way this holiday season.
Most Christmas tree fires occur after Christmas, and one-third of Christmas tree fires were electrical from 2007 to 2011.
Keep your tree away from heat. Place your tree at least three feet away from heat sources like fire places, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights and keep it away from all exits.
Check your tree’s label. Make sure your artificial tree is marked “fire resistant.” This will be noted from the manufacturer on the tree’s packaging. If you have a cut tree, add water to the tree stand every day.
Check the lights’ label. Only use lights that have been labelled by an independent testing lab. Only use “for indoor use” or “for indoor/outdoor use” lights inside.
Before using lights, check them by plugging the strand in and inspecting the string before putting them on your tree, mantle or elsewhere. Don’t use lights that have broken worn or broken cords or connections. Also, use 3 or less strands of mini lights to decorate your tree or no more than 50 screw-in bulbs.
Turn off your lights. Don’t leave lights plugged in when you’re not home or while you’re sleeping.
Get rid of your tree. If you have a cut tree, get rid of it as soon as you notice that the needles are dropping. This indicates that the tree is dry, making it a fire hazard.
Cautions for outdoor decorating are similar to indoor decorating: check your lights’ labels, make sure they work properly, only use lights designated as “For outdoor use” and turn your lights off when you’re sleeping or not home.
Don’t overdo it. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the maximum number of light sets that can be used together. Use insulated clips or hooks to securely fasten lights.
Don’t overload outlets. Only use circuits that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GRCI). If there is an overcurrent, this type of outlet will shut the circuit down.
Be careful with extension cords and outlets. Just like with lights, only use extension cords that are designed for outdoor use. Check manufacturers’ instructions about recommended maximum wattage.
By taking safety precautions seriously, you’ll be able to enjoy a happy, safe holiday season with your loved ones.
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