It’s magical when the house is decorated for Christmas, but I have often wondered how safe some of our lighting hook-ups have been. I love the white candles in all of the windows, the wreaths on the doors and my favorites are the trees and our basket of Christmas tree trunks marking our past celebrations. But I do care that we’re being safe as we deck the halls.
Here are some important tips for safe Christmas decorating from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
“ESFI is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to providing unbiased information regarding electrical safety.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year an estimated average of 160 reported home fires are caused by decorative lights, and Christmas trees account for another 230 fires each year. Combined, these resulted in an average of 13 deaths and $26.3 million in property damage per year.
50% of home fires caused by Christmas trees happened during the 15 days between December 22 and January 5. – National Fire Protection Association
Water Your Christmas Tree
I like to have two trees, one that sits in the front window and looks so pretty from both outside and in. A few years ago, I finally gave in to a fake tree for this one and it’s so much more practical, but I love the smell and tradition (damn the allergies) of the live one we put up in the family room in the back of the house. We decorate (well, I decorate and the kids load) the live one with garland, baubles and ornaments the kids have made and collected. As part of our tree decorating tradition, I buy them each a new ornament every year. My box of favorite ornaments is full of dated frames with photos of the kids through the years.
To keep your tree safe, water it daily to keep it well hydrated. It’s a joke in our family that Nick regularly, annually, always puts the tree up and forgets to water it. One year he was so proud that he remembered and as he was bragging to me, the tree tumbled forward spilling the water all over the wood floor. We had a good laugh as we sopped up the water, erected the tree, tied it to the wall with fishing line and refilled the water! Good thing he remembered the water!
Use Light Strings and Extensions Cords With Care
The ESFI says to use one extension cord that is long enough to do the job, do not connect an extension cord to an extension cord. Don’t nail or staple light strings or extension cords or use anything that could damage the wire insulation and never run an extension cord under a rug or where it could be pinched under furniture.
I think of this all the time with cords and wires throughout the year, not just for safe Christmas decorating. Years ago when we lived in New Jersey, a family we knew in town had a house fire. It was devastating and scary and was caused by a wire that had been under the foot of a dining room hutch. I think of them often and am constantly aware of not letting anything rest on top of any cords or wires.
It’s also recommended that you do not string more than three incandescent light strings together and plug outdoor electric lights into ground-fault circuit interrupters.
Educate Yourself to Keep Your Family Safe
Take a moment to read the infographics included here and to read the resources on the Electrical Safety Foundation International website.
One thing you learn may be the key to keeping your family and home safe, and share this information with friends, too! If you see a neighbor decorating an outdoor tree that is touching a power line, go ahead an let him know it’s not safe, or if you’re at a party and see an open candle near a Christmas tree, blow it out and let the hosts know why. I hope you learned something helpful and wish you Happy Safe Christmas Decorating!
© Leah DeCesare 2013