Electrical Safety for the Holidays

December 08, 2009

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year more than 12,000 people are treated in the emergency room for holiday-related incidents, including electrical contact involving lights and decorations.  At A.J. Perri, we would like everyone to enjoy the holidays safely.  We urge everyone to take extreme caution when dealing with electricity.  Holidays are the most distracting times of the year and everyone is busy.  It’s easy to do your decorating quickly without taking safety into consideration, however, risk increases because people aren’t paying attention to what they are doing.

Below are some important holiday safety tips:

  • Keep extension cords out of the way.  Tripping or slipping sends more people to the hospital than any other home accident.

  • If extensive holiday lighting is planned, call in a competent electrician to make sure the house circuits can handle the load.

  • Extension cords should be checked carefully for loose sockets and plugs, broken wire or insulation.

  • Check each set of Christmas lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.  Always replace burned out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.

  • If you have any climbing or reaching to be done, do not stand on a chair, table or overturned bucket.  Always use a sturdy ladder.

  • Keep bulbs from touching Christmas tree needles, branches or decorative items.

  • Use more than one circuit to avoid overloading household wiring.

  • Unplug lights from electrical outlets before changing bulbs.

  • Turn off holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house unattended.  On Christmas Eve night, many families leave the Christmas lights turned on, both on their house and their tree.  This is very hazardous, as some Christmas lights can get very heated and possible set fire to the tree or home.  Any paper wrapped gifts underneath the tree will easily feed the fire and spread it through the whole house. 

  • For those who prefer a natural tree, buy a fresh one with springy branches and green, tight needles.  Pick the tree up by the trunk and gently bump it against the ground.  If many needles fall, it is too dry.

  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.  The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching the branch can be electrocuted.

  • For outdoor lighting, only use strings of outdoor lights, spotlights, sockets and extension cords approved by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

  • When stringing lights outside, use a dry, wooden or fiberglass ladder and stay away from power lines.

  • The National Safety Council advises: “Hang outdoor lights with the sockets turned down, so that water won’t accumulate in them and cause shorts.  Also make sure the UL tag is on all strings of lights themselves, not just on the box in which they’re sold.”

  • Do not overload extension cords.  A proportion of one extension to two sockets should do.  Three or more appliances connected to an extension cord could be a potential fire hazard.

  • Do not fasten outdoor lights with nails or tacks.  Use insulated staples or run lights through hooks.

Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights.  Never pull or tug on lights – they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.


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Last Updated: June 09, 2023