With Thanksgiving gone it’s the holiday decorating season again, although in our neighborhood some houses have had the industrial-strength lighting and filigree up since the weekend before Thanksgiving – freaks! We were out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend so our festive 3-D tributes to winter, Santa Claus (forgoing the animatronic Jolly Old Elf this year – scares the hell out of the almost-2 year-old), and the birth of Jesus will be hauled out of their basement slumber this coming weekend. I’m certain many of you will be doing the same.
So with that in mind, it’s time for gentle seasonal reminders about decorating safety, which despite the granular specificity of our helpful pals at Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Protection Association, can largely be summed up with DON’T BE A DUMBASS.
If that, however, is too general an exhortation, here then are some more finely calibrated suggestions:
— Regularly check your tree for fresh, green needles. Trees that have
dried out over several weeks are easier to ignite. Remember to keep your
tree watered at all times.
— Make sure your tree stand holds at least 1 gallon of water. As a
general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem
diameter. The average 6-foot tree has a 4-inch diameter trunk and can
consume as much as 4 quarts or 1 gallon of water per day.
— Keep your tree at least 3 feet from fireplaces, radiators, space
heaters, heating vents and other sources of heat. Don’t place the tree
where it blocks an exit.
— Look for the UL Mark on light strings, electrical decorations and
extension cords. The UL Mark means that UL engineers have tested
representative samples of the product for foreseeable safety hazards such
as fire and electric shock.
— Ensure lights, decorations and extension cords are rated for outside
use. Lights intended for indoor-only use bear green UL Marks. Light strings
intended for indoor and outdoor use bear red UL Marks.
— Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for electrical
— Carefully inspect each electrical decoration — new or old — before
plugging it in. Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a
serious electric shock or start a fire. Replace damaged items with new, UL-
— Don’t use staples or nails to hang light strings. Instead, purchase
hooks or clips designed for hanging light strings.
— Check packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that may be
connected or use this rule of thumb: Connect a maximum of three midget
(push-in bulbs) light strings or up to 50 bulbs of light strings with the
screw-in bulbs (C7s and C9s).
— Don’t overload extension cords by plugging in too many decorations.
— Turn off all electrical lights and decorations before leaving home or
going to bed.
— Keep candles away from decorations, curtains, bedding, paper, walls,
furniture and other combustible materials.
— Place candles away from spots where they could be knocked over by a
person or pet.
— Use sturdy, non-combustible candleholders that can collect dripping
wax and won’t tip over.
— Extinguish a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or a half-inch if the
candle is in a container. This prevents heat damage to the surface and
stops glass containers from breaking.
— Don’t leave children unattended in a room with lit candles.
— Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach
— Never use lit candles to decorate Christmas trees.
— Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
— Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when near power lines and electrical
wiring. Metal ladders conduct electricity.
— Use the right height ladder, ensuring it extends 3 feet over the
roofline or working surface.
— Set the ladder on a firm, level surface and avoid soft or muddy
— Never exceed the ladder’s weight limit or the maximum load rating.
— Never stand on a step ladder’s bucket shelf. Read and follow the
warning stickers for highest standing levels.
— Only one person on the ladder.
— Don’t carry equipment while climbing. Wear a tool belt or have someone
hand equipment to you.
— Face the ladder when climbing up or down, keeping your body centered
between the side rails.
In other words, don’t be a dumbass.