Avoid Holiday Decorating Disasters

Approximately 12,500 people are injured ever year from falls, cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty holiday lights, dried-out Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.

This is the time of year when home decorating could really kill you. Avoid holiday decorating DIY disasters this year by following these homeowner tips:


  • Purchase artificial trees that have a “Fire Resistant” label. Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
  • If you prefer to get a live tree, look for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Since heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place trees in areas of your home with less traffic and be sure to always keep them away from fireplaces and radiators.


  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician

Ornaments (should be accents -not accidents!)

  • Hang only non-combustible or flame-resistant ornaments on your tree.
  • Be sure to keep precious family decorations away from the reach of children, especially if they may be made from a lead based material
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles out of reach of children and pets.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • To avoid eye and skin irritation, wear gloves when decorating with spun glass “angel hair.”
  • To avoid lung irritation, follow container directions carefully while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

Whether inside or out, holiday decorations can easily lead to fires. Always consult a recommended electrician before going all-out on the holiday display. After-all, holiday lights alone are responsible for over 300 fires and approximately $205 million in property damage every year. Gutters clogged with leafs are commonly a culprit in such fires. Be sure to take necessary precautions since roof resurfacing is probably the last thing you want to add to your holiday list this year!

Also be sure to store all holiday decorations properly. You may want to assemble storage shelves in the garage or shed in order to keep them off the ground and protect them from water damage until you’re ready to decorate again!

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