Tis the season for colorful lights and festive ornaments. With only 34 days left until Christmas, many families will soon be decorating their homes for the holidays.But those pretty lights and often overloaded extension cords mixed with tinsel and wrapping paper can be a potential fire hazard.
More than three thousand home fires are caused by extension cords according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.
Here are some safety tips before stringing up those extra lights around your Christmas tree and outside your home.
City Mill Safety and Facilities Manager Frank Suster said it’s always important to inspect your lights first.
“Let’s say you use (the lights) for 10 years. The wire does get brittle and you can imagine if there’s an exposed copper wire there, if you touch it, you’re going to feel 120 volts,” Suster said.
Exposed wire could potentially cause a fire if it comes in contact with something flammable. This is why it’s important to be careful how you hang or install your lights.
“A lot of people buy a staple gun and start stapling the wires to the walls, and if that staple punctures the wire, it could cause a short circuit or somebody getting shocked,” Suster explained.
The National Fire Protection Association suggests using clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do
not get damaged.
It’s important to use an outdoor extension cord for outdoor decorations.
“It should be a three-prong type extension cord with a ground…for Christmas lights a 16-gauge outdoor extension cord is fine,” said Suster.
Regular two-prong extension cords are for indoor use only.
“We want everyone to be safe,” said Honolulu Fire Department Captain Scot Seguirant. “We don’t want anyone to to be overloading any type of sockets, any type of wall outlets. Use the correct number of lights that you’re going to add to your circuit.”
“Many home owners they might have 20 fixtures they want to plug in. So they go one, two, three, four, five, six, uh oh. I’m out. So they grab another (power strip) and they plug it into this one and then another one, that’s illegal. You shouldn’t be daisy-chaining multiple strips,” explained Suster.
Connecting multiple power strips could exceed the amount of electricity the base strip can handle and can be very dangerous.
“(Power) strips can handle 15 amps, and if you exceed the 15 amps what’s going to happen is either the reset button (on the strip) is going to pop or your circuit breaker is going to pop. But if something goes wrong, it could cause a fire.”
“If (the power strip or outlet) is overloaded and there’s some kind of arc and you have things that can actually burn, those things are not good,” said Seguirant.
Seguirant said it’s also not a good idea to use an extension cord as permanent wiring.
“Some people feel that (the holidays are) a short enough period of time, a month or so and those things have been used in the past, but if you can, use a power strip. That will be a higher degree of safety,” Seguirant said.
Suster said you should also avoid using any Christmas lights or decorations that get hot.
“That’s why LED light is the best for Christmas trees,” explained Suster.
Another important tip, always turn off your lights when you’re not home or before bed. Suster said he’s been decorating his home for Christmas for 28 years. He suggested putting your lights on timers so they go off automatically.