Fire Safety, Safety

Be Safe When Decorating Your Facility for the Holidays!

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to get your facility ready for the next holidays, which means one thing: decorating. Between the lights, trees, wreaths, menorahs, etc., there are a number of safety considerations to make before your decorating committee starts dragging the decorations out of storage. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2012-2016, holiday decorations were responsible for 800 home structure fires alone, with a reported $11 million in property damage as a result. With that in mind, here are some tips from Allen Wilson, the director of the Building Maintenance program at Vatterott College – Springfield in Springfield, Missouri on staying safe while decorating.

Close up of burning Christmas tree

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  • Only purchase UL-Listed lights, decorations, and extension cords, as these have been tested and are certified to be safe.
  • If you do need new lights, think about purchasing LED lights. Not only are they more cost-effective in the long term, they run cooler than traditional bulbs so they are less likely to overheat.
  • Make sure you hang your indoor lights indoors, as they are more likely to cause electric shock and become a fire hazard when used outdoors. Always check the labels before decorating, and be sure that your outdoor lights are plugged into GFCI outlets.
  • Once you’ve de-tangled the strands, be sure to check for any damage to lights, decorations, or extension cords. If there’s simply a broken bulb, do not use the light strand until the bulb has been replaced. Do not use items with damaged wire insulation, and discard any decoration with a damaged cord or plug.
  • Be sure to use a wooden or fiberglass ladder for any outdoor decorating. Metal ladders increase the risk of electrical shock from damaged decorations.
  • Try to use clips instead of staples, tacks, or nails to hang decorations, as these can damage the wire insulation.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. No more than three light strands should be plugged into a given extension cord or outlet.
  • Every-so-often, check to make sure the lights aren’t overheating. They should not be warm to the touch.
  • Be sure to unplug the lights if you do need to change a burned out bulb or making any other repairs to your decorations. If you do need to change a bulb, double check that it is the correct wattage for the strand you’re plugging it into.
  • At the end of the day, make sure you turn your decorations off prior to leaving the facility.