Simple ways to stay safe installing electric holiday decorations

Kristi King,

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

An easy safety tip to remember: Look for a red icon on the decoration. “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(UL) 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 we sometimes forget about safety. 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 from UL: 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. Things of that type happen all too often.”

Drengenberg says candles cause more than then thousand fires a year and those numbers peak in December.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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