Benchmark Agency Blog

Safety Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Christmas Lights

Christmas tree lights can cause electric shock and fire. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, one-fifth of the injuries from holiday decorations treated in hospital emergency rooms are associated with Christmas tree lights. And Christmas trees are involved in nearly 400 fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, resulting in more than a dozen deaths, dozens of injuries and more than $10 million in property damage and loss. Short circuiting lights are cited as the main cause of Christmas tree fires.

There are a few things you can do to minimize your risk for fire or electric shock associated with Christmas lights and other electric powered Christmas decorations. Below are some tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association.

Tips for Indoor Lights

  • Before you decorate, take a few moments to inspect the lights.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard any damaged light sets.
  • Use only indoor or outdoor lights that have been tested for safety and are labeled as such by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Set up your Christmas tree away from the fireplace, portable heaters, heater vents and televisions.
  • Do not allow your Christmas tree to block doors or foot traffic.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water and check it daily.
  • Miniature lights are preferred because they have cool burning bulbs.
  • Position the bulbs of Christmas tree lights away from needles and ornaments.
  • Use no more than three standard sized light sets per single extension cord (maximum of 200 miniature lights or 150 larger lights).
  • Use only one extension cord per outlet.
  • Don’t run electrical cords under rugs or beneath furniture.
  • Keep animals away from electrical cords.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree; it can create an electrical shock hazard.
  • Turn off all Christmas lights before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Use only non-combustible, flame resistant materials to trim the tree.
  • Never use lighted candles, even on an artificial tree.
  • Monitor lighted villages, Nativity sets, electric trains and other electrically powered scenery and figures.

Tips for Outdoor Lights

  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, the exterior of the house or another firm support to avoid damage from the wind.
  • Use only lights designated for outdoor use.
  • Check for damaged sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections and throw away any light set that is damaged.
  • Shut off outside electrical power when replacing bulbs.
  • Use no more than three standard size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Always use extension cords with a three-prong plug that are approved for outdoor use.
  • Never use an indoor extension cord outside.
  • Avoid standing in water while handling electrical wires or using power tools.
  • Use a dry, wooden ladder while hanging lights to reduce the chance of electrical shock.
  • Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Never let bulbs touch combustible material such as plastics, pine needles, leaves and grass.
  • Turn off all outdoor lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Remove all outdoor lights as soon as the season is over. They are not designed for prolonged exposure to the elements.

Take great care when you are decorating your home for Christmas. You don’t want your holiday to go up in flames.


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