Avoid hidden dangers when decorating for the holidays

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Red and green aren’t just colors for Christmas cheer. They also portray important safety information on electric decorations.

“If it’s a red ‘UL’ in a circle that means the decoration has been given extra tests, like rain tests or cold weather tests, to show that it’s suitable for outside use,” says consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories John Drengenberg.

Holiday lights and decorations that should only be used indoors are labeled with a green “UL” in a circle.

Drengenberg says the holidays can be so distracting and busy that “we do forget about safety sometimes.” More than 13,000 people visited emergency rooms during last year’s holiday season, according to Drengenberg.

“Not only cutting themselves with ornaments, but falling off ladders and fires and shocks,” he says.

Trained as an electrical engineer, Drengenberg says even LED light strings that draw less power can cause problems. Bare wires and cracked sockets can present a potential fire hazard or potential electric shock hazard, he says.

Drengenberg recommends inspecting all decorations closely before putting them up. Other recommendations:

  • Never carry items when climbing a ladder
  • Don’t over-reach
  • Never route extension cords under carpets or through doors or windows
  • Pinching the wires can cause them to smolder
  • Don’t leave outdoor decorations up all year
  • Never leave a room with a candle burning

“There are so many fires that occur when people say ‘I just left the room for a minute … and before I knew it the dining room was on fire from my candle on the middle of the table,'” he says. “Things of that type happen all too often.”

Drengenberg says candles cause more than than 1,000 fires a year and those numbers peak in December.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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