2002-12-19 / From The Mayor...

Consumers Offered Advice On Safe Holiday Decorating

Decking the halls with boughs of holly may have been a popular means of decorating for holidays of years past, but flashing bulbs, illuminated icicles, even animated figurines on lawns and rooftops are a far more common sight today. And, while there’s no denying their beauty, electrical decorations such as light strings, animated ornaments and figures should be used and displayed with the utmost care.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 10,000 people for injuries related to holiday lights, decorations and trees. To address this alarming trend, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization, is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a private, nonprofit fire safety advocate group, to sponsor Operation Decoration, a public awareness campaign aimed at helping to promote holiday decorating safety.

The safety professionals at UL and the NFPA offer the following tips and precautions when decorating your home this holiday season:

When purchasing live, cut trees or greens, carefully inspect the needles. If they’re brown or break easily, the greenery isn’t fresh and poses a greater fire risk. When you take your tree home, put it in a sturdy, non-tip stand and keep it filled with water at all times.

If your family prefers decorating with artificial trees or greens, purchase those that are flame-retardant. The product packaging will indicate if the branches of your artificial tree or greens have been treated with flame-retardant material. Remember that light strings and other electrical decorations should not be used on artificial trees or greens that have metallic needles, leaves or branch coverings.

Place your tree or greens at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Also make sure not to block a doorway or other exit route. Use light strings and animated or electrical decorations that bear the UL Mark. The UL Mark on a product means that UL engineers have tested representative samples of the product for foreseeable safety hazards such as fire and electric shock.

Before you begin decorating, your first step should be to follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning installation and maintenance of the electrical decorations you’ll be using.

Before plugging in newly purchased or previously used electrical decorations, carefully inspect each decoration.

Always unplug a light string or electrical decoration before replacing light bulbs or fuses. Check the instructions to determine which maintenance the manufacturer recommends you perform.

Don’t mount or support light strings in any way that might damage the cord’s wire insulation.

Check the markings on your electrical decorations to determine the maximum number of decorative light strings that may be connected. If the product packaging does not indicate the number of light strings that may be connected together, practice this rule of thumb: Do not connect more than three midget (push-in bulbs) light string sets together. Light strings with the screw-in bulbs (C7s and C9s) should have a maximum of 50 bulbs connected together.

Don’t overload extension cords — it could cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.

Don’t allow children or pets to play with light strings, candle lights or other electrical decorations. These decorations aren’t toys and could produce a deadly electric shock if they are misused.

Turn off all electrical light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

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