Before crawling up on the roof to string the Christmas lights, you need to know that every year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
In addition, CPSC warns, candles start about 11,600 fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage.
Since CPSC started monitoring holiday lights and decorations sold at stores nationwide, inspectors have prevented the import of 116,500 units of holiday lights that did not meet safety standards.
Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord 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.
Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. 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.
Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
Get more tips at www.cpsc.gov.