As the holidays approach, many homeowners are busy planning festive indoor and outdoor displays of lights and greenery. Heirloom decorations emerge from storage, along with wonderful memories of family gatherings, favorite traditions, and joyful children. As you anticipate making new memories this holiday season, ensure they are happy ones by making safety your top priority.
Where Danger Lurks
Strings of lights from years past, the lighted Santa that always adorns the chimney, and the flashing wreath for your front door all hold the potential for fire danger.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that one-fifth of home structure fires caused by decorations occur in December. To prevent a holiday tragedy at your home, pay particular attention to these areas:
- Strings of lights. Inspect lights for signs of overheating, fraying, and other damage. Never join more than three strings together, and always verify that all light strands are UL approved. To save energy, consider replacing old lights with new LEDs.
- Vintage decorations. Holiday lighting is not designed for many years of use. Electric decorations that have been handed down should be inspected and refurbished by an electrical professional. If a decoration has been in your family for decades, consider throwing it away or using it without the lights.
- Trees and greenery. Both fresh and artificial trees and greenery pose fire risks. Always check natural evergreens for freshness and make sure they are properly watered. Keep trees and garlands at least three feet from heat sources and unplug them when leaving home or before going to bed. Make sure artificial trees and greenery are certified as fire-retardant.
- Extension cords and light strips. Extra guests and new gadgets could mean that your home’s electrical system is maxed out with every available plug in use. If you plan to use extension cords and power strips, be sure they are rated for their intended use and installed correctly. Never cover cords with rugs, and if using outdoor extension cords, keep them clear of snow and water puddles
Extra Precautions for Your Peace of Mind
As you are decorating your home, take a few minutes to test and change the batteries in your smoke alarms. They are your first line of protection from a home fire. And, because holiday weather is unpredictable, consider having a whole-house generator installed. With reliable backup power, the festivities will go on no matter what surprises Old Man Winter has in store.