The holiday season should be bright and festive, but all those lights and decorations you put up to make things merry can represent extra fire hazards in and around your home. Fortunately, there are a few simple holiday safety tips you can take to minimize your risk — and keep you and your family safe.
Holiday Decorations and Equipment
Keep the following tips in mind when you start pulling out your lights and other decorations:
Check the Physical Condition of Your Decorations
Before you hang anything, inspect all your lights and other electrical items to make sure there are no exposed, frayed, pinched or otherwise damaged wires. To reduce the risk of fires, be sure all your light strings and electric devices are certified by the Canadian Standards Association. And if they come with a grounding pin (the third prong), do not remove it.
Avoid Electrical Overloads
Outlet splitters and power bars can let you plug more things into a single outlet, but don’t go overboard. Any high-wattage device should be plugged into its own separate outlet. Also, never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together. Otherwise, you’re at risk of blowing a fuse or tripping a breaker.
Stay away from heat sources
Keep your tree and any other flammable decorations at least one metre from fireplaces, heaters or any other heat source. And make sure your tree doesn’t become its own heat source: if you’re decorating a real tree, keep it well watered so it doesn’t dry out, which can increase its risk of catching fire.
Protect Your Cords
Don’t let children play with cords, lights or decorations. The same goes for pets that like to chew on cords. As much as possible, keep electrical cords where neither can reach them. But make sure that’s not under rugs or furniture or anywhere else where the cords might be a tripping hazard or get strained or damaged.
Keep Your Outside Safe
For outside decorating, use only lights and extension cords approved for outdoor use. Always plug your outdoor lights and decorations into ground fault circuit interrupters (GCFIs), and keep all connections above ground, out of any puddles and at least three metres away from any power lines. Use proper hooks for hanging lights. Staples or nails can damage the wires.
Safety Tips for Fireplaces and Space Heaters
The safety tips above also apply to the fireplaces and space heaters that will keep you warm all winter — not just at holiday time. Always be sure to turn off heaters before you leave your home or go to bed, and keep a one-metre distance between your heaters and furniture or décor.
Repairing Electrical Hazards
If you find any damage to your lights or decorations, you’ll likely ask yourself: should I repair them on my own or call a professional? The good news is that, yes, you can complete some minor repairs on your own — just be sure everything is disconnected from a power source before you start. But electrical work can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It requires high levels of precision and skill, so most repairs are best left to a professional electrician. An Electrical Protection Plan from Enercare covers repairs to your home’s electrical system to help you put up the brightest, merriest holiday display — worry-free.
General Safety Tips
In addition to the tips above, here are a few fire safety reminders to keep in mind all year round.
Don’t Start Fires
Candles provide a festive, homey glow, but they’re also a leading cause of home fires, so never leave them unattended. Better yet, use battery-operated flameless candles or candle warmers. And when it’s time to leave your home or to go to bed, turn all your decorations off, blow out any candles and fully extinguish your fireplace.
It’s also a good idea to inspect your outlets regularly to make sure there’s no overheating, loose connections, reversed polarity or corrosion. If you encounter any of these issues, unplug anything plugged into them and have an electrician repair or replace the outlets.
Even with precautions, fires can still happen, so make sure you’re ready. Install a smoke detector in every room, check them monthly and change their batteries at least once a year. And make sure you have at least one working fire extinguisher easily accessible, and that your family and guests know how to use it.
We at Enercare wish you a very safe and happy holiday season full of light, warmth and comfort. And if your heat goes out or you need to replace a damaged outlet, just give us a call — we’re here to help.