One of the most popular Christmas songs of all time is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” As you likely remember, a line in the song’s lyrics offers this wistful, yearning hope: “Through the years we’ll always be together – if the fates allow.”Here’s hoping that your family will be together for many, many happy years. But let’s not leave that hope entirely in the hands of the fates.
Take Fate Into Your Own Hands – At Least a Little Bit
It happens with tragic regularity every Christmas season: for some unfortunate families, a house fire eliminates all chances of being together through the years – at least in this world. Christmases future and Christmas present all go up in smoke, and the hopes and dreams of an entire family are snuffed out in one scorching stroke.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in recent years there’s been an average of 160 home fires each Christmas season caused by holiday lighting, many resulting in deaths. And in almost every case, the fires were very preventable, and would never have occurred had proper precautions been taken.
So if your family will be joining in the holiday festivities by installing Christmas lights, be sure to avoid tempting fate by observing these safety tips:
• Keep Outlets Dry. As everyone knows, electricity and water do not mix – at least not without unintended consequences. So be sure that your receptacles and connections are kept clear of water and snow. A good rule of thumb is to keep electrical connections elevated at least 12″ above the surface of the ground. And use weatherproof outdoor receptacles.
• GFCI Is Good. GFCI is short for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It’s a type of electrical outlet that helps to prevent electrical shocks. Most electrical exterior outlets that are installed these days are GFCI, and you want to be sure that you plug your outdoor Christmas lights only into GFCI outlets. GFCI outlets will either have a test button and a reset button on the outlet itself, or be controlled from a master panel containing a test and a reset button (all exterior outlets, for example, controlled from a master panel).
• Safe Bulb Replacement. If you have to replace any bulbs in your light strings, be sure to only use replacement bulbs of the same wattage as the originals.
• Inspect Lines. Before installing your light lines, inspect every foot for abrasions, cuts or fraying of the electrical insulation. You should even inspect brand-new out-of-the-box lines for manufacturing flaws. And be sure not to use an installation method that might damage a line’s insulation. Using tacks, nails, or screws for hanging lights, for example, are no-nos.
• Extension Cord Care. Also inspect the condition of your extension cords, and be sure not to overload them. Once you’ve installed your lights and turned them on, check to see if any of the extension cords are becoming hot to the touch. If so, the cord is overloaded; replace it with a cord rated for a higher load.
• Properly Rated Lights. Be sure that the lights you install outdoors are rated for outdoor use. Each light set should clearly be labeled for either indoor or indoor/outdoor use. If there’s no label on a light set you’re planning to use, don’t take chances – replace it with a labeled set.
• Don’t Leave Lights Unattended. Don’t leave the lights on when you’re not at home. It’s tempting to do otherwise – but not wise.
Make This a Christmas to Remember…
…For all the RIGHT reasons.
Don’t become a Christmas statistic. Fires caused by Christmas lighting occur with tragic regularity. But with a bit of care and caution, those tragic events are largely preventable.
Rely upon the ‘fates’ for those things over which you have no control. But don’t bother the fates with keeping you safe from fires caused by Christmas lights. That’s in your hands.