Despite freezing temperatures in much of the country, the holiday season brings warm memories and traditions to Americans young and old. Two members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have teamed up to offer seasonal safety tips that will help keep consumers safe during Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and other winter holiday celebrations.
Operation Decoration, a collaboration between Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides handy guidelines to prevent common seasonal accidents like falls, electrical shocks, and most importantly, home fires.
- Look for the UL Mark on light strings, electrical decorations and extension cords. The UL Mark means that UL engineers have tested representative samples of the product for foreseeable safety hazards such as fire and electric shock.
- Ensure outside lights, decorations and extension cords are rated for outside use. Lights intended for indoor-only use bear green holographic UL Marks. Light strings intended for indoor and outdoor use bear red holographic UL Marks.
- Carefully inspect each electrical decoration — new or old — before plugging it in. Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a serious electric shock or start a fire. Replace damaged items with new, UL-Listed decorations.
- Don't use staples or nails to hang light strings. Instead, purchase plastic hooks or clips designed for hanging light strings.
- Check packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that may be connected or use this rule of thumb: connect a maximum of three midget (push-in bulbs) light strings or up to 50 bulbs of light strings with the screw-in bulbs (C7s and C9s).
- Don't overload extension cords by plugging in too many decorations.
- Turn off all electrical lights and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
- Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for electrical decorations.
Candle Safety Guidelines
- Keep candles away from combustible materials, such as decorations, paper, wreaths and boughs.
- Place candles away from places that could be knocked over by a person or pet.
- Use sturdy, non-combustible candleholders that can collect dripping wax and won’t tip over. Consider the use of lantern-style candleholders that limit the possibility of something coming into contact with the candle flame.
- Extinguish a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or a half-inch if the candle is in a container. This prevents heat damage to the surface and stops glass containers from breaking.
- Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children, and don’t leave children unattended in a room with lit candles.
- Never use lit candles to decorate Christmas trees.
- Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when near power lines and electrical wiring. Metal ladders conduct electricity.
- Use the right ladder for the job, ensuring it extends 3 feet over the roofline or working surface.
- Set the ladder on a firm, level surface and avoid soft or muddy ground.
- Never exceed the ladder's weight limit or the maximum load rating.
- Never stand on a step ladder's bucket shelf. Read and follow the warning stickers for highest standing levels.
- Only one person on the ladder.
- Don't carry equipment while climbing. Wear a tool belt or have someone hand equipment to you.
- Face the ladder when climbing up or down, keeping your body centered between the side rails.
Other Home Safety Ideas
- Smoke alarms are the single most effective fire-safety item for the home. Seventy percent of all home fire fatalities occur in homes where there are no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
- Use a sturdy and secure fireplace screen to keep embers out of the room.
- Long fireplace matches will help to prevent burns.
- Make use of down or synthetic comforters, flannel sheets and flannel pajamas to keep warm at night and reduce the need for space heaters [see related article].
- Smokers should use large, deep, non-tip ashtrays to prevent smoking materials from igniting nearby materials.
- Keep a portable fire extinguisher in the home, preferably near the kitchen.
- Large house numbers help firefighters locate a home at night quickly during an emergency.