The holidays are coming up and it’s time to start thinking about how you can keep your family safe. Electrical safety is something that we should all be paying attention to. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) estimates that nearly half of all electrical fire deaths occur December through March. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk of a fire in your home.
This time of year, we love to see festive light displays. Lights come with their own set of risks, though. You can reduce those risks by protecting cords from damage. Ensure that cords aren’t pinched by furniture, doors, or windows. They should never be placed under rugs, placed near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples. Before using anything with a cord, inspect it for damage. Replace cracked or damaged sockets, since bare wires and loose connections pose a serious shock risk. They can also start a fire. It’s not worth keeping damaged decorations around.
Avoid Electrical Overloads
Overloaded electrical outlets are a common cause of holiday fires. Plug only one high-wattage item into each outlet at a time. How much is too much? More than three strings of incandescent lights may not only blow a fuse but can also cause a fire. If you have a lot of lights to put up each year, distribute them among outlets. Another way to light up your life is with energy-saving LEDs. The U.S. Department of Energy says it’s safe to connect 25 strands of LEDs end to end. LEDs are safer, and they will be easier on your electric bill.
Buy UL Tested Electrical Cords, Power Strips, and Decorations.
Before you buy a new extension cord or a box of new bulbs, make sure they have a UL label. Electricals with this label have been tested by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL), and have been deemed not hazardous. A set of indoor lights will have a green holographic UL sticker on the cord, while indoor/outdoor lights will have a red sticker.
More on Extension Cords
- Never plug one extension cord into another
- Keep extension cords out of snow and standing water.
- Make sure your extension cords don’t overheat. If the cord feels hot to the touch, unplug it.
- If the connector piece of an extension cord is left on the ground, rain, snow, or dirt can get into the plug, creating a hazard. Elevate connector pieces using a brick or a rock.
- Match your extension cord to what you are using. Extension cords come with a wattage rating. What you plug into your extension cord must not have a combined wattage that exceeds your cord. Otherwise, it can overheat.
- Never remove the ground prong from 3 pronged plugs, whether on an appliance or an extension cord.
Never nail or staple electrical cords to walls or other surfaces since this can pierce the wire. Instead, use insulated hooks to avoid any electrical emergencies.
The best decorations are safe decorations, so when you are decorating, never run cords under rugs or furniture, out of windows, or across walkways and sidewalks.
As tempting as it is to fall asleep with your phone or tablet on your bed to read or play music, it’s important to keep them on your nightstand. Overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are a fire hazard. It’s also hard on your device to heat up like that.
Speaking of heat, if you use a space heater, switch it off before leaving the room. If a space heater tips over or comes in contact with something combustible, like a blanket or curtains, a fire can start in a matter of seconds.
Don’t be shocked! Unplug your decorations before you replace the fuses or bulbs.
When decorating outdoors, it’s especially important to take precautions to avoid electrical shocks. Keep all light strings and extension cords away from water and snow. Use fiberglass or wooden ladders rather than metal ladders.
Plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by circuit interrupters. If the circuits aren’t GFCI protected, buy portable outdoor GFCIs. Only hang lights outside that were specifically designed to be used outdoors. Indoor lights could be damaged by snow or rain and pose an electrical hazard if used outside.
Arc faults Cause about half of the electrical fires that occur every year. An arc fault is an arcing condition that occurs in an electrical circuit. This arcing can create high-intensity heat. Over time this heat could ignite surrounding wood framing or insulation. Damaged wires behind a wall or damaged cords that are plugged into an outlet can cause this arcing. It can be prevented by installing AFCIs, Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter breakers or outlets. A qualified electrician should complete all upgrades.
AFCI devices look very similar to GFCI devices, but they provide very different protections. Both devices will cut off the power when they detect a fault in the circuit, but AFCI devices also detect arc faults to protect your home from electrical fires. GFCI receptacles cut off the power if a ground fault is detected, to protect you from shocks and electrocution.
Turn off, unplug, and extinguish all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house. Unattended candles are the cause of one in five home candle fires. Half of home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.
A Few More Tips
When the holidays are over, pack up your Christmas lights in well-sealed containers. This will prevent potential water damage and hinder rodents from chewing on the cords.
Hire an electrician: Every ten years or so, have an electrician conduct a full inspection of your home to spot and repair potential problems that could spark or otherwise cause a fire.
The electricians at Landmark are pros that know how to keep your family safe. Contact us today!
 ” Firehouse, Electrical Safety Foundation International, 11 Dec. 2018, www.firehouse.com/prevention-investigation/community-risk-reduction/video/21036376/electrical-safety-foundation-international-esfi-holiday-fire-safety-tips.
 Aherns, Marty. “Home Structure Fires.” National Fire Protection Association , National Fire Protection Association , Oct. 2019, www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Building-and-life-safety/oshomes.pdf.