Keep Shocks and Fires Out of Your Holiday Plans

The winter holidays are prime time for home fires and electrical shocks, leading to property damage, burns, or worse. Fortunately, you can avoid many potential home mishaps with some care and attention while working your holiday decorating magic in your home.

Many of the basic electrical threats in the home such as overloaded circuits and extension cord safety were covered in our post on home safety. During the holidays we tend to bring out extra extension cords, indoor and outdoor light strands, power strips and timers. While candles are by far the most dangerous holiday decorations, aged electrical equipment also causes danger. The Electrical Fire Safety Foundation (EFSF) has tips on keeping your holidays safe. Here are some key points:

  • Inspect all extension and lighting cords for damage such as frayed cords or exposed wires.
  • Don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings.
  • Unlike incandescent bulbs, which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch—which also indicates greater energy-efficiency.
  • LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Never drape anything over a light bulb or lampshade, even if using LEDs.

While it is unlikely that your tree will catch fire, the National Fire Protection Association ( notes that electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 38% of home Christmas tree fires. The results of a tree fire can be devastating, as dramatically shown in their video.

It’s worth the few minutes it takes to check on the condition of your electric decorations and make sure flammable materials are far removed from heat sources such as candles and heaters. We all want to keep the “Happy” in Happy Holidays!


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