Holiday Lighting - A Silent Fire Hazard
With the holidays approaching, Christmas lighting can be a great way to boost sales and make your office building or retail space more festive for customers. However, Christmas lighting can pose a silent, and destructive, electrical hazard. In fact, faulty holiday lighting causes over 230 fires each year, resulting in 6 deaths and $19 million dollars in property damage. Electrical failures or wiring malfunctions within holiday lights account for approximately two-thirds of all holiday lighting-related fires. There are simple strategies you can use to keep your employees safe during the holidays when decorating your office or retail space with holiday lighting.
- Use an artificial Christmas tree. The risk of a fire increases dramatically when using a natural tree. If there is an electrical short or malfunction, dry natural trees can spark a fire within seconds. If you choose to use a natural tree, be sure it is watered regularly and inspect all lighting that will be placed on or within 3 feet of the natural tree.
- Avoid metal ladders when placing lights. To reduce the chance of electric shock, use a ladder made of a non-conductive material, such as wood or fiberglass.
- Follow manufacturer instructions when using holiday lights. Before you decorate with those holiday lights, take the time to read the safety warnings or installation instructions. This includes verifying the required voltage limits and how many strands of lights are safe to connect together. Never use lights that are frayed, have exposed wires, or have damaged bulbs.
- Prevent extension cord overload. Check the wattage rating of your extension cords and the power demands of any light decorations you plan to use. A wattage rating will outline the amount of electricity that an extension cord can safely accommodate. If you exceed this wattage rating, overheating may occur that could result in a catastrophic fire.
- Periodically touch Christmas light wires. If they are hot or warm to the touch, this could signal that they are overloaded and a malfunction may occur. Also inspect visible Christmas lighting wires to see if exposed areas are appearing. This could also signal an overheating problem, which may lead to a significant fire hazard.
- Turn off all holiday lights before exiting the building. If the building or area where Christmas lighting is being used is left unattended for more than 5 hours, consider turning them off. Most holiday lighting fires occur when buildings are vacant, or during the overnight hours. Keeping an eye out for the first signs of an electrical failure can help to prevent a tragedy.