Whether you're putting up holiday lights for your home or your business, you should be aware that those seemingly innocuous strings of light can pose serious electrical and fire hazards if proper safety precautions are not followed. Here are some ways to make sure those twinkling lights don't end up burning down the building.
Before Putting Up The Lights
- Before putting up the lights, check them to see if there are any frayed wires, loose connections, cracked sockets, or bare wires. If you see any of the aforementioned signs, throw them out or return to the store if they were newly bought.
- If you notice any bulbs have burned out, replace them with new bulbs with the same wattage. Remember to unplug the lights before replacing any bulbs or fuses.
- If you are using a metallic tree this year, don't put electric lights on it. Any faulty lights will charge the tree with electricity, and which may then electrocute a person who touches a branch.
- Don't use any more than three sets of lights per extension cord. Overloading extension cords are a common electrical hazard.
Stringing Lights Outdoors
- If you are putting up lights outside, make sure to check the labels to confirm they are certified for use outdoors. This is important because they may be exposed to elements, such as rain, snow, general moisture, and all things that would not mix well with electrical items, unless they were made especially to operate in such environments.
- When removing outdoor lights, don't pull on the lights to get them down. They may accidentally get wrapped around power lines, which is a dangerous situation to be in when you're holding onto the other end of the line of lights.
Other Safety Precautions
- Remember to turn off all decorative lights when you leave the building or go to sleep. Otherwise, the light may short out and spark a fire.
- If you are getting an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant before you purchase it.
- Always check your smoke detectors to make sure that they are all functioning properly.
- If you're not sure if your lighting setup is up to safety standards, don't be afraid to contact an electrical contractor to evaluate the situation. They will be able to find any electrical hazards and advise you on a safer configuration.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are an estimated 250 injuries a day during the holidays due to falls, lacerations, and fires, resulting from neglecting electrical safety measures. They also estimate that between 2009 and 2011, fire departments in the U.S. have responded to about 200 calls related to Christmas trees that have caught on fire, which resulted in deaths, injuries, and significant property loss.
Don't let yourself become part of the statistics, and follow the tips above to ensure that you have a safe and accident-free holiday.