SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Light Up the Holidays the Safe Way
The holiday season – that special time of year when
you brighten your home and business with colorful
and twinkling lights. Although decorating with electric
lighting helps you create a cheerful atmosphere, it
also brings an increased risk of accidental fire.
Here are some important safety tips to help you avoid
electrical fires, overloaded circuits and other holiday fire
hazards both outside and inside your home.
- Always buy lights and electrical decorations bearing the
name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer’s
instructions for installation and maintenance.
Never use seasonal lighting outside your home unless it
is specifically labeled for outdoor use.
- Connect outside lighting to a Ground Fault Circuit
Interrupting (GFCI) outlet. If you don’t have a GFCI outlet,
contact a qualified electrician for proper installation.
- Never secure the wiring of outdoor lighting with staples
or nails - or place lights on sharp hooks or nails.
- Do not close doors or windows on extension cords, or
mount lights in any way that can damage the cord’s
- Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings
and replace damaged items before plugging lights in.
Never overload extension cords.
Christmas Tree Safety
- Keep kids and pets away from light strings and electrical
- Unplug all holiday lighting before leaving the house or
when going to bed.
- Make sure the lamps do not rest on the supply cord or
on any wire.
- Avoid covering lights with cloth, paper or any material
that is not part of the lighting.
- Throw away any lighting that shows cut, damaged or
frayed wire insulation or cords. Discard lights with
cracks in lamp holders, loose connections or exposed
- Virtually all holiday lighting is provided with overload
fuse protection. A blown fuse indicates an overload or
short-circuit situation. When this occurs, unplug lights
from the outlet immediately and replace the blown fuse.
- If the replacement fuse blows, a short circuit may be
present. Either throw the light string away or return it
to the retailer if new.
- Take the lights down when the holidays are over.
Seasonal lighting is not intended for permanent installation
- When lights are placed on a live tree, be sure your tree
is fresh and well maintained. Never purchase a tree
with dry or dropping needles.
- Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them
plenty of water every day.
- Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
Make sure the tree stand is well secured and stable
before putting on the lights.
- Always use safe tree lights that have been tested by an
independent testing laboratory.
- Inspect lights carefully. If a string of lights has worn,
frayed or broken cords, or loose bulb connections it
should not be used.
- Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat
source. Try to position it near an outlet so cords don’t
have to run long distances.
- Do not position the Christmas tree where it may block
- Never use electric lights on a metal tree.
- Buy artificial trees only if they are labeled as fire-retardant.
- Make sure larger tree lights have some type of reflector
rather than a bare bulb.
- Keep an eye on children when they are near the tree
and do not let them play with the wiring or lights.
- Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles.
Don’t keep dried out trees in your home or garage,
as they are highly flammable.
- NEVER attempt to burn a dried out tree in your home’s
fireplace. It may burst into hard-to-control flame
Candle Fire - Beauty or a Beast?
The warm glow of holiday candlelight is beautiful, but
can be a severe fire hazard. Since December is the peak
month for candle fires, put safety first when lighting any
holiday candle. Here are a few safety tips to observe.
Never use candles to decorate your Christmas tree!
- Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible
- Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going
- Don’t place candles in windows, where blinds and curtains
can close over them.
- Use sturdy candleholders that won’t tip over easily and
are large enough to collect dripping wax.
- Remember, a candle is an open flame and can easily ignite
nearby combustible materials - such as clothing, books,
paper or any flammable liquid.
- Keep candlewicks trimmed to
one quarter inch and extinguish
taper and pillar candles when
they are within two inches of the
holder. Votive candles should be
put out before the last half-inch
of wax starts to melt.
- Keep candles up high and out
of reach of children.
- Never leave a young child
unattended in a room with a
- Don’t allow children or teens
to have candles in their bedrooms.
As the holiday season approaches,
I would like to thank each of my
readers for your continued questions
and comments on this column.
I sincerely wish you and yours a very
happy holiday season!
- Try to avoid carrying a lit candle.
- Don’t use a lit candle when
searching for items in a confined
- Never use a candle for a light
when checking pilot lights or
fueling equipment such as a
kerosene heater or lantern.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.