The fun, festive activities during the holiday season make it a favorite time of year for many people.
At the risk of sounding like a Grinch, though, all that festivity can lead to unintentional safety hazards. For example, some 30 percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur over December, January and February, reports the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
Fortunately, awareness is half the battle. As you enjoy the holidays this year, think about best practices for keeping you and your family safer.
1. Don’t let the holidays zap your energy. Not to shock you, but it’s crucial to keep your hands dry (and avoid standing in water) when touching decorations, gifts or other gadgets powered by electricity. You should install ground-fault circuit interrupters anywhere inside or outside water and electricity may come in contact.
2. Sleep tight, but electronics-free. Lying down for a long winter’s nap? Stash cordless and corded appliances elsewhere to rule out overheating. A hot phone under a sack of feathers could spell disaster.
4. Enjoy (but monitor) the warmth of the season. Space heaters come in handy for banishing winter chill, but they can overheat, spark, tip over and/or ignite combustibles such as wadded-up giftwrap if not used correctly. Turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
5. Get that holiday glow. Instead of the open-flame candles that inadvertently spark holiday décor each year, consider battery-operated candles. Remember to blow out candles when you leave the room.
6. Best gift for your family is to upgrade to Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter breakers or outlets. This smart technology temporarily disables circuits when detecting potentially dangerous electric leaks. It’s estimated that half of electrical fires that occur every year could be prevented by AFCIs. All upgrades should be completed by a qualified electrician.
7. Avoid getting frazzled. Worn-cord warning: Avoid pinching electric cords between windows, rugs, carpets or furniture, since that can wear them down and possibly cause overheating and ignition.
8. Even outlets experience holiday stress. Multi-outlet power strips and extension cords are handy for decorations, phones, cooking gear and new gift gadgetry, but plugging in too many things can over-tax your home’s electrical capacity. Never use an extension cord or power strip for heaters, as this could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.
9. Decorate wisely. Consider fire hazards before draping that garland over a fireplace mantle, plugging in the frayed cord that lights up your vintage Santa or arranging pine wreaths around your candles. Check decorations for safety listing labels and never connect more than three strings of lights.
10. Give lit decorations a holiday break. Reduce the likelihood of fire by simply shutting everything off when there’s no one home (or awake) to enjoy them. Half of home fire deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., reports the NFPA.
11. Be busy as an elf about damage control. When decorating, check for loose or bare wires, cracked or damaged sockets, wobbly connections, broken or sharp edges and other hazards. And it may be time to toss that cheesy 1970s version of St. Nick.
12. More Christmas tree, more water. If you put up a real tree, make sure you water it daily. A dried-up pine tree is nothing but kindling. And an unfortunate 260 home fires in the U.S. start with Christmas trees each year, on average.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International wishes everyone a safe, warm and happy holiday.