Hanging Christmas lights, whether indoors or outdoors, is a given around the holidays and bathes everything in a beautiful, warm glow. Becoming aware of the following holiday hazard statistics can help you safely decorate your home.
- In 2004-2008, an estimated 1,170 home fires per year began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of 8 deaths, 54 injuries, and $19.1 million in property damage.
- Christmas tree and holiday decoration fires result in twice the injuries and 5 times more fatalities per fire than the average winter holiday fire.
- On average, 260 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year, resulting in 12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage.
- An additional 150 home fires per year begin with holiday lights and other decorative lighting, causing another 8 deaths, 16 injuries, and $8.9 million in property damage each year.
- Candles started 45% of home decoration fires.
- December is the peak time of year for candle fires.
- Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day are the top 3 days of the year for candle fires.
- Roughly 5,800 people per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations. More than half of these injuries were caused by falls from ladders or roofs while decorating outdoors.
- CPSC estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. 50% of these injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. 13% of these injuries involve children less than five years of age; electrical burns to the mouth accounted for 50% of the injuries to young children.¹ ~ ESFI.org
While everyone likes to save money by performing do it yourself projects, you’ll want to be able to enjoy your handiwork rather than deal with disasters. Hiring an electrician to come and do a task for you can be very costly, so a lot of people attempt to do their own electrical work.
Any major wiring projects should always be done by a professional, but there are a few minor projects you could do yourself. Even though they’re minor tasks, there’s still danger of electrical shock involved with them.
While getting shocked is a prime concern with electrical projects, an electrical fire can also be involved if you don’t take special precautions to protect yourself and your home. This virtual house walks you through household hazards; room by room.
Here are some tips on how to stay safe the next time you work around wiring:
- Always make sure that you cut off the power to the area you’ll be working on. Don’t rely on just the power switch being off. Go to your fuse box and either remove the appropriate fuse or flip the right switch to cut the power off completely.
- Alert anyone in the house what you’re planning to do, (and keep children away from the work in progress). It would also be a good idea to place tape over the circuit switch in case someone else comes along who doesn’t know what’s going and tries to turn the circuit back on.
- When you begin to work on the area, you should always treat it as if there were live wires. Work slowly and take your time doing the work. You should be free from any distractions. There’s no room for mistakes, so don’t try to hurry through the project just to get it done.
- Use a fiberglass ladder if you need one because they’re non-conductive ladders and will absorb any electric shocks that may come through. Wear heavy rubber soled shoes as well to help absorb as much of the electric shock as possible should one occur.
- Use a power tester to test the wires you’ll be working on. Make sure there’s no power going through the wire. It’s possible that you could have hit the wrong switch on the fuse box, so take a bit of extra precaution and test the wires before working on them.
- Don’t work in damp, wet areas. Electricity and water do not mix! Try to dry the area first before engaging in any projects with electricity. You should do this with any damp areas that are close by where you’ll be working – even if they aren’t in the precise vicinity.
- Make sure you know what you’re doing before you do it. Taping the wrong wires together can result in a major electrical fire when the electricity is turned back on. Do it correctly the first time to avoid any catastrophes.
You can save quite a bit of money by doing some of your own minor electrical work, but don’t take these tasks too lightly. If you worry that you’ve gotten in over your head, call in a professional and don’t risk your life or your home. With that in mind, the safety information and tips on this page, can indeed, help you have “Happy Holidays!”
1. Do not use electronics near water. Electricity and water do not mix. The outlets in your bathroom and kitchen should be installed a good distance away from any water sources to prevent deaths or serious injuries.
2. Never sleep with electronics under your pillow.
3. Keep batteries safely stored in their packaging they can be deadly if swallowed.
4. Do not leave space heaters unattended when in use.
5. Keep decorations at least 3 feet away from any open flame.
6. Never play with fire.
7. Do not run cords under carpets, rugs, furniture, or out of windows. Covering cords and wires can make them overheat and cause a fire. Keep your cords and wires away from other objects and ensure that they never get covered. Similarly, ensure that your computer and television have enough space and proper ventilation to ensure they do not catch fire.
8. Do not overload outlets. Too many items plugged in to one outlet could cause overheating, leading to fires.
9. Sometimes less is more be careful not to over decorate.
10. Always turn off decorations when you’re sleeping or leaving your home.
11. Inspect all decorations and discard any that are damaged or worn.
12. Keep your natural Christmas tree hydrated and water it daily.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
- Keep decorations or any other flammable items at least 3 ft away from open flame and heat sources.
- Inspect all decorations to ensure they do not have any frayed or pinched wires and discard any worn decorations.
- Ensure multiple extension cords are never strung together or are ran under rugs, carpets or furniture. And make sure those used outdoors are labeled “for outdoor use.”
- Never leave cooking equipment unattended and turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
- Never leave a space heater unattended and turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep. Never let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- Water Christmas trees daily and discard trees when they are dry and begin to drop needles.
There’s no better time to make sure that:
- all of your smoke alarms are working properly
- you have the appropriate number of alarms for the size of your home
- your smoke alarms are installed in the correct place for optimal performance
- Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
- For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected, so that they all sound if one sounds. Manufacturers are now producing battery operated alarms that are interconnected by wireless technology.
- Combination smoke alarms that include both ionization and photoelectric alarms offer the most comprehensive protection. An ionization alarm is more responsive to flames, while a photoelectric alarm is more responsive to a smoldering fire.
- Hardwired smoke alarms with battery backups are considered to be more reliable than those operated solely by batteries.
- Purchase smoke alarms from a reputable retailer that you trust.
- Choose alarms that bear the label of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.
- Install smoke alarms at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to reduce the possibility of nuisance alarms.
- Alarms installed between 10-20 feet of a cooking appliance must have a hush feature to temporarily reduce the alarm sensitivity or must be a photoelectric alarm.
- If possible, alarms should be mounted in the center of a ceiling. If mounted on a wall, they should be located 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling.
- Avoid locating alarms near bathrooms, heating appliances, windows or ceiling fans.
- Smoke alarms should be tested once a month by pressing the TEST button.
- Smoke alarm batteries should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps” or “beeps” to indicate low batteries, they should be replaced immediately.
- Occasionally dust or lightly vacuum the exterior of the alarm to remove dust and cobwebs.
- Smoke alarms should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least every ten years.
- Never paint over a smoke alarm.
Make sure you have a schedule in place to test your smoke alarms.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is created when common fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood or coal burn incompletely. This odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is often called the “silent killer” because it is virtually undetectable without the use of detection technology like a CO alarm.¹
- Install CO alarms on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area.
- Interconnected CO alarms provide the best protection. When one sounds, they all sound.
- CO alarms are not a substitute for smoke alarms. Install both types of alarms in your home.
- Purchase CO alarms from a reputable retailer that you trust.
- Choose alarms that bear the label of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding proper placement and installation height.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month by pressing the TEST button.
- CO alarm batteries should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps” or “beeps” to indicate low batteries, they should be replaced immediately.
- The lifespan of CO alarms varies. CO alarms should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Additional Alarm Tips:
- Make sure that everyone in your family knows the difference between the sound of the CO and smoke alarms, and what number to call for a CO emergency.
- If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move to fresh air outside. Alert others In the home to the danger and make sure everyone gets to fresh air safely.
- Never ignore a sounding CO alarm.
Have a Safety Plan in Place
Having an effective fire safety plan is absolutely essential. Go through the virtual fire safety drill to help formulate your own plan to ensure your families safety.
Still looking for a place you can call home? That’s what we’re here for!
¹”ESFI: Bring Electrical Safety Home. Protect Your Home and Family From Electrical Hazards.” ESFI: Bring Electrical Safety Home. Protect Your Home and Family From Electrical Hazards. Electrical Safety Foundation International, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016. <https://www.esfi.org/home-safety>.
²”Household Electrical Glossary.” Glossary of Electrical Terms – Do-it-yourself-help.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016. <https://www.do-it-yourself-help.com/electrical-terms-glossary.html>.