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Safety first with holiday lighting

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 12:24 p.m. CDT

Holiday lighting displays are a beloved holiday tradition. Many families enjoy illuminating their homes with decorative lights, and some communities even reward the household that goes above and beyond with their holiday lighting display.

But as enjoyable and eye-catching as such displays can be, they also can be equally as dangerous. Hanging lights carries a certain degree of risk, and it’s best for homeowners to be as cautious as possible when erecting their holiday lighting displays.

• Start with the lights. Inspecting the lights is an important part of creating a safe holiday lighting display, and this inspection should occur before you begin decorating. Examine each string of lights for damaged wires, including any loose connections or broken sockets. Discard any damaged sets before decorating. If your inspection turns up any burned out bulbs, always replace the older bulbs with new bulbs of the same wattage. In the past, a good rule of thumb was to limit each extension cord to no more than three sets of lights. However, if using LED bulbs, which consume as much as 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, you can have more sets connected to a single extension cord.

After inspecting the lights, inspect the other tools you will be using. Make sure the ladder is sturdy and that your staple gun and other tools are ready to be used. If any tools fail your inspection, delay the decorating until you can find adequate replacements.

• Only decorate in the daytime. Sunlight can be sparse during the holiday season, when the sun goes down before many working men and women leave their offices much less arrive home. But decorating at night is asking for trouble, so make time to decorate during the daytime. Decorating during the day makes it easier to see potentially problematic power lines, and the weather likely won’t be as harsh during the daytime as it will be at night, reducing your risk for injury.

• Never decorate alone. When decorating, always have someone nearby in case of emergency. Falling from a ladder can cause serious harm, but having someone there to hold the ladder can reduce your risk of falling. In addition, a decorating partner can contact emergency personnel should you suffer an injury and become unable to reach the telephone.

• Trim trees before decorating. Winter might not be the ideal time to trim trees, but streaming lights on overgrown trees could pose a significant safety risk. A tree that hasn’t been trimmed might have grown close to power lines. When that tree is covered in holiday lights, contact with the power line could electrify the tree, potentially causing property damage or personal injury to anyone within close proximity to the affected tree. If you’re worried about trimming a tree outside of its recommended trimming season, do not decorate that tree with any lights.

• Strategically place lights. Lights should never conceal a window, and the cords should never be run across walkways or steps. Lights that are strewn across a window pose a safety hazard should a fire occur at the home and window escape is needed. Cords that have been run across walkways and steps pose a tripping hazard, especially if a light snowfall makes it difficult for family members or guests to see the cords on the ground.

• Make sure the lights are not on when no one is home. Lights should never be on when no one is home. This poses a significant safety risk, and no homeowner wants to arrive home to see their house has burned down or suffered damage from a fire. In addition, turn the lights off before you go to sleep at night. This makes the home safer at night and will save you a substantial amount of money.

— Content courtesy of Metro Creative Connection

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