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Holiday lighting can spark danger

Although it helps spread Christmas cheer and sets the season aglow, the special decorations of the holiday season bring with them their own special dangers.

Saturday, November 27, 1999

Although it helps spread Christmas cheer and sets the season aglow, the special decorations of the holiday season bring with them their own special dangers.

"Safety should be the first consideration when installing lights, both inside and outside the house," said Joe Pemberton, Ashland, Ky., district manager of American Electric Power.

From the type of lights used to the placement of decorations and keeping a tree well-watered, extra decor means extra precautions to have a safe holiday, Pemberton added.

"Read the package label. You should be certain the decorations you plan to use outside are designed for outdoor use," Pemberton said. "Since snow, freezing rain and strong winds can take a toll on lighting equipment, you should make sure that your decorations have specially designed cords and sockets for outdoor lighting."

When placing lights and other decorations along roofs and in other outside locations, pay particular attention to overhead power lines and use special care with ladders, he added.

"Sometimes, people don’t consider the possibility of coming into contact with power lines when they are struggling to untangle lights or to put up garland," Pemberton said. "It can be a fatal mistake."

And, with the additional fire hazards presented by the lighting, it also can prove to not only be deadly, but also could cause a family to lose their home before the holidays.

"Ohioans must recognize the additional risks from fire during the holiday season and take the necessary steps to reduce these risks," Ohio Fire Marshal Robert Rielage said. "This is the best way all of us can have a safe and enjoyable holiday season."

In addition to purchasing the proper lighting equipment and seeing that it is safely placed away from fire hazards, young children left unattended also can pose a risk.

"Children need to be closely supervised during the holiday season. They need to be warned to stay away from matches, candles and decorative lighting," Rielage said. "In particular, younger children should be supervised at all times in rooms where candles are in use."

Both AEP and the State Fire Marshal’s office urge residents to stick to the following safety precautions when decorating for – and enjoying –  the holiday season:

– Check extension cords. Replace light sets and extension cords which are worn or cracked and do not run the cords over sharp objects where damage may go unnoticed or where a door might close on them.

– Never overload circuits by using multiple cords in one outlet.

– Take special care when checking strands of lights. Check the strand and then unplug it before replacing bulbs.

– Never run cords under throw rugs or long drapes.

– Keep pets away from electrical decorations.

– Unplug decorations when you leave home or go to bed.

– Purchase decorative lights that bear the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and use the lights according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

– Do not connect too many light sets together. The manufacturer’s instructions will indicate how many sets can be safely connected (usually no more than three strings). This will prevent overheating.

– Install light sets outside the home only if they are specifically labeled for outdoor use. Fasten them with hangars, not staples, and place them on a ground fault interrupter circuit when possible.

– Use the correct wattage replacement bulbs specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. Replacing several lower wattage bulbs with higher wattage bulbs can cause overheating.

– Decorative candles or Menorahs should be secured so that they cannot be tipped over. They should be kept away from material such as draperies which may easily ignite. Candles should be extinguished before you leave the house or go to bed.

– With increased possibility of fire during the holidays, make sure every family member has practiced and is familiar with your home escape plan and that each person knows two ways out of every room in the house.

– Make sure all smoke detectors in the home are operational. For maximum fire safety, each home should have a smoke detector on each level of the house and one outside individual sleeping quarters.

– Fireplaces should always be inspected before use and should never be used as an incinerator for wrapping paper or boxes after your gift exchange.

– During the holiday business rush and increased traffic flows, make sure that you pull your vehicle as far to the right as you can and stop if you see or hear fire, police or emergency medical vehicles. Also, be sure not to park in the fire lane while waiting outside a store for a friend or family member shopping inside.

– Consider a practical gift this holiday season of smoke or carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher, first aid kit or flashlights. They are inexpensive, easy to find and make a unique stocking stuffer.

that can help save the life of a loved one.