Electrical Safety During the Holidays

Electrical Safety

The holiday season just wouldn't be the same without the magic of twinkling lights and glowing candles. Unfortunately, the magic of each season is vanquished for some families when fires disrupt their lives. According to the Canada Safety Council,  187 people lose their lives each year due to holiday fires. Do your part to keep your family safe this year by adhering to some basic electrical safety tips.

Initial Precautions

Before you choose which light goes where, ensure that every strand is safe. If you plan to purchase a new set, make sure it has been tested for safety. The packaging should display a label of some independent testing lab. Also use the proper strand in the proper location: some lights can be used for indoors only, some can only be used for outdoors only, and others can be used for both. Check all strands (new and old) for frayed wires, bare wires, loose connections, cracked sockets and broken bulbs. Plug in each set for about 10 to 15 minutes and place them on a fire-resistant surface to make sure the lights don't melt or smoke. Finally, turn off electrical power when replacing bulbs or putting up outdoor lighting and fasten lights securely to your trees, walls, or house to protect them from wind damage.

Electrical Cords

According to the Canadian Fire Safety Association, no more than three standard-sized light sets should be used per one extension cord. This should amount to a maximum of 200 miniature lights or 150 bigger lights. Additionally, only one extension cord should be used in one outlet. For outside lights, only use three-pronged extension cords that are approved for outdoor use. For inside lights, place electrical cords in places where wire insulation won't wear down or be pinched. They shouldn't be placed under rugs, behind or beneath furniture. They should also be kept away from animals and the Christmas tree's water supply.

RELATED: Electricity & the Holidays video by the ESA

General Precautions

If you plan to use a metallic tree, never use electric lights. No matter what tree you use, only hang colored spotlights above or beside a tree to avoid getting an electric shock from a tree that has been electrically charged by faulty lights. Also, never let any light bulbs touch combustible materials such as pine leaves or needles, plastics and grass. Finally, never leave lights unattended. Turn off all Christmas lights (and all other plugged in decorations) before you go to sleep or leave the house.



If you plan to use lit candles, put them in stable holders in a safe location where they are not in contact with combustible materials. Also, never lit candles unattended. Additionally, never decorate your tree with lit candles and in general, stay away from the tree with any open flame--matches, candles, or lighters.


Other Electronic Decorations

Other electrically powered decorations, such as nativity scenes, inflated cartoon characters and electric trains should be monitored just as closely as any decorative lights. They could also short out and cause a fire.

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