Holiday lighting safety tips
We all want our homes to be merry and bright with the holidays right around the corner, but are you doing everything you can to be safe when putting up your lights? When decorating your home for the holiday season, take a look at the following safety tips:
- Consider purchasing LED holiday lights; they are cool to the touch and more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.
- Test holiday lights by connecting each strand before hanging them.
- Make sure there are no broken bulbs or damaged or grayed cords. Discard any defective strands.
- Use holiday lights that include the Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) label.
- Avoid resting bulbs on tree needles and branches. Try using a clip to keep the bulbs upright.
- Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
Make sure safety is on the menu this year
The holiday season is in full swing, which means many of us will find ourselves in the kitchen prepping for upcoming celebrations. In the associated rush of gearing up for holiday get-togethers, cooking safety can sometimes be put on the backburner, no pun intended.
Inattention and electrical appliances don’t mix well, which is why it’s important to keep your focus on the delicious dishes you are preparing. While it might seem like a good way to kill two birds with one stone by starting a dish on the stovetop or in the toaster oven then moving on to other tasks, reports from the National Fire Prevention Association state that unattended equipment is cited as the leading cause for 32 percent of home cooking fires.
When frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food, always remain in the kitchen, and keep anything flammable – oven mitts, food wrappers, towels or wooden utensils – away from the stovetop or cooking surface. Another aspect of cooking safety that’s often overlooked is the condition of the appliances being used. Check that they are still in good working condition, and never use an appliance that’s in obvious disrepair or one that’s already had an over-extended cooking career.
Ask yourself just how many Christmases has that crockpot seen? The lifespan of small appliances greatly depends on how often they are used, how well they are maintained and how well their quality holds up. Generally speaking, the average life expectancy of most small kitchen appliances ranges from five to 10 years. For example, mid- to high-end toasters can last six to eight years, and a toaster oven works an average of five years. If you’ve celebrated your 15th wedding anniversary and you’re still regularly using the crockpot or toaster you received as a wedding present, it might be time to add a new one to your Christmas list.
To stay safe while cooking, keep the following additional tips in mind when you begin your food prep:
- Make sure your appliances are plugged into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. When working properly, the GFCI senses any power flow imbalances and in turn trips the circuit.
- Make sure all electric cords are in good working condition: do not use appliances with cords or plugs that are frayed, cracked, taped, wire-exposed or otherwise questionable.
- If you use extension cords, make sure they are in good condition and that the correct type of cord is used for the job (for example, don’t use an everyday, thin extension cord for a high-powered appliance). Use them as a temporary solution, not a permanent one.
- Although often a task that gets skipped, read the appliance’s operating instructions prior to use.
When not in use, always unplug small appliances to prevent any unnecessary energy consumption, especially if the appliance has LED displays or any other standby features that consume energy.
Holiday cooking tips
The kitchen can be a busy place during the holiday season; prepping and preparing favorite recipes (or sampling those favorite recipes). With Covid-19, dining in restaurants has become less common, causing people to spend more time in their own homes and kitchens this season than ever before.
However, whether you are a seasoned cook or novice baker, it’s important to keep electrical safety in mind. In the United States alone, approximately 1,000 deaths occur each year as a result of electrical injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health. An additional non-fatal 30,000 shock incidents occur each year. So, before you start getting your holiday casseroles ready, make sure safety is on your menu this year by using the following cooking tips:
- Always read and follow an appliance’s operating instructions.
- Always dry your hands before handling cords or plugs.
- If an unplugged appliance cord gets wet or damp, do not plug it in until it is thoroughly dry.
- Do not handle electrical cords or appliances when standing in water.
- Pull on the plug, not the cord, to disconnect an appliance from an outlet.
- To avoid damaging cords, don’t run them across walkways or underneath rugs. Draping them over walkways is also a tripping hazard.
- Regularly inspect electrical cords and plugs for damaged insulation and exposed wiring; immediately discard any damaged item. Avoid using any cord or plug that is frayed, cracked, taped or otherwise questionable.
- Do not overload extension cords, multi-pack power strips or surge protectors with too many appliances or other items or plug them into each other. Use them only as a temporary solution, and not a permanent one.
- Ensure extension cords, power strips and surge protectors are in good condition and the appropriate gauge for the job (the lower the number, the bigger the gauge and the greater the amperage and wattage).
- Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong from a plug, which is a grounding/safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock
- If you have doubts about your home’s electrical system, have a licensed electrician evaluate wiring, outlets, and switches to verify they are in working order.
- Educate yourself and everyone in your household on how to properly turn off your home’s power in case of an emergency.
Holiday Cooking Safety Tips
The kitchen is the heart of the home. Sadly, it’s also where two out of every five home fires start. Many home fires occur during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year – the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years hold a tradition of cooking, and safety should always be considered in the kitchen. As we embark on the holiday season, CAEC and the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urge you to use these simple safety tips to identify and correct potential kitchen hazards:
▪ Never leave cooking equipment unattended, and always remember to turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
▪ Supervise the little ones closely in the kitchen. Make sure children stay at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
▪ Prevent potential fires by making sure your stove top and oven are clean and free of grease, dust and spilled food.
▪ Remember to clean the exhaust hood and duct over your stove on a regular basis.
▪ Keep the cooking area around the stove and oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins and potholders.
▪ Always wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire.
▪ To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
▪ Locate all appliances away from the sink.
▪ Plug countertop appliances into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.
▪ Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster.
▪ Unplug the toaster and other counter top appliances when not in use.
▪ Be sure to turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.
For more important safety tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year, visit www.esfi.org.
Halloween Electrical Safety
As consumers and families across America prepare to celebrate Halloween with elaborate decorations, creative costumes, and candlelight displays, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends following important safety tips to keep families and homes safe.
- Choose decorations, costumes, and accessories that are made with flame resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
- Use flashlights or battery operated candles instead of candles when decorating the home, including to light walkways, jack-o-lanterns,and outdoor displays.
- Carefully inspect each decoration before use. Cracked, frayed, or bare wires may cause a serious electric shock or start a fire.
- Before using any electrical products outside, make sure they are marked “for outdoor use.”
- Keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas, including doorways and walkways, where they can be a tripping hazard.
- Plug outdoor decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to prevent electric shock.
- Never nail or staple light strings or extension cords. This can damage the cord’s insulation and create a serious fire and shock hazard.
- Use electrical lights and decorations that are approved for safe use by an independent testing laboratory such as UL, ETLSEMKO or CSA.
- Always turn off all electrical decorations and extinguish any open flames before leaving home or going to bed.
Real Tree Safety Tips
Few traditions are as unique to the holidays as adorning our homes with brightly lit Christmas trees. Many people choose to display live trees in their homes, and while this timeless exhibit adds to the magic of the season, it may also increase the risk of holiday fires and injuries. A primary concern with a live Christmas tree is fire danger, often brought on by the combination of electrical malfunctions and a drying tree.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), there are several things to do when looking for a fresh tree. If you’re heading to a retail lot, look for one that is well lit but keeps the trees in a shaded area to prevent them from drying out. Ask the seller questions, such as when they received their trees; are they delivered once at the beginning of the season or in several shipments? If there are several varieties of trees, ask the retailer which performs best in your climate, as some species last longer and remain fresher than others in certain environments.
Once you select a potential tree, know how to do a fresh-check. The NCTA suggests that you run a branch through your enclosed hand – the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches – they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily or the needles come off without effort, the tree is too dry and could be a fire hazard. Other warning signs are excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor and wrinkled bark. A good rule of thumb is if you are unsure as to whether a tree is fresh, select another, and if all the trees on the lot don’t look fresh, find another retailer.
When you get your live tree home, make a fresh cut to remove about a half inch disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting it in the stand. Do not cut it at an angle or in a V-shape which makes the tree less sturdy and reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Taking a few minutes to do this will improve your tree’s water intake, and make it harder for your tree to catch fire. As a general rule, tree stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Check the stand daily to ensure the water level doesn’t go below the base of the tree. An additional safeguard is to place the tree away from sources of heat (fireplaces, space heaters, vents).
To reduce your risk of electrical malfunctions and danger when it comes to décor, use low heat lights such as LED’s or miniature bulbs and inspect the light sets (new or old) for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections before use. Be careful where you place electrical cords. Don’t run electrical cords under rugs; walking traffic can weaken the insulation and the wires can overheat, increasing the chances for fire or electrical shock. Purchase lights, electric decorations and extension cords that are UL-listed only. And always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
Electrical malfunctions can also ignite artificial trees and you should take the same precautions as you would with a real tree regarding tree placement and decorations.
By following these safety tips, you can keep your holidays merry and bright with the beauty of a real tree in your home.