“Safety is a year-round concern, but special care should be taken during the holiday season,” said Morris Price, Morgan City Fire Chief.
Price’s top advice is to make sure any live tree stays hydrated at all times during the holiday season. Trees are a fire hazard if they dry out.
Keep plenty of water in the base, and some even suggest misting the tree itself with water. Do this with room temperature water at least once a day with the Christmas lights off and unplugged.
Other advice the chief offered included inspecting power cords and light strings for fraying, make sure power cords have ground fault protection and do not overload any single power outlet.
“You’d be surprised at the number of people who run their entire outside lighting (decoration) circuit on one power plug,” Price said.
Further, if smoke detectors weren’t checked for fresh batteries and functionality previously, now is a good time to do so.
Power company Cleco also has tips for homeowners and renters.
“Watch for overhead power lines as you use ladders to put up outdoor lights. Also, make sure you use lights rated for outdoor use. Wrap electrical connections to protect from rain and dampness and keep the connections off the ground,” said Shirley Turner, general manager of Cleco customer experience management.
Cleco recommends limiting the number of light strings to three or less when using an extension cord and never running extension cords under rugs or attaching to the walls with staples or nails.
“One of the most important safety reminders we can offer is to unplug all lights when you are away from home,” said Turner.
SLECA Manager Joseph A. Ticheli added a few more tips:
—When buying new lights, strings of lights or other electric decorations make sure each has the Underwriters Laboratories or Good Housekeeping seal on it. Fixtures with the UL or Good Housekeeping seal may cost more, but they have been approved for safety.
—Make sure every socket on each string of lights has a bulb in it, whether it lights up or not. An empty socket is an invitation to danger. A piece of metal or a twig from your tree could complete the circuit and create sparks that could result in a fire. Empty sockets are also inviting to children’s fingers.
—Don’t string lights while they are plugged in.
—Don’t run electric wires in walkways. Put them where nobody can trip over them or tape them down.
—Use flame-retardant decorations, and keep paper decorations and tinsel away from hot lights.
—Keep a portable fire extinguisher close to the tree.
—Never put lights on an aluminum tree because aluminum is a conductor of electricity.
—Use a sturdy stand when you set up your Christmas tree. If a decorated tree, loaded with bulbs, falls onto a hard floor, the bulbs could break and the exposed filament could ignite the tree.
—Always use a dry wooden ladder when installing outdoor decorations. Dry wood won’t conduct an electric current.