NEWS | Dec. 3, 2013

Decorate safely this Christmas

By 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office

Are you ready to decorate for the holidays? No matter what or how you celebrate this time of year, decorations are a family tradition for many. It's easy to get caught up in the festivities, and while you're busy decorating your home or office, safety may be one of the last things on your mind.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 14,000 injuries related to holiday decorations in 2011, an increase of 1,000 over the previous year. To ensure you have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season with your friends and family, here are 12 tips to keep in mind as you deck your home:

1. Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters and keep a fire extinguisher near your tree. Live trees are highly flammable due to needles and sap.

2. Hydrate your tree. A dried-out tree can catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Check the water level every other day to ensure proper hydration.

3. Fake it! If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled "fire resistant." Fire-resistant (which does not mean fireproof) trees are less susceptible to catching fire.

4. Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. Paper can catch fire very quickly and can cause flash fires. Instead, recycle (or better yet, reuse!) your wrapping paper.

5. Work as a team. When stringing lights and decorations above your normal reach, make sure you use a proper ladder with someone supporting the base.

6. Double-check your lights for safety. Replace any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets, and loose connections.

7. Power down before you turn in. Turn off all lights when you go to bed and before leaving the house to avoid a short that could start an electrical fire.

8. Prevent electrical cord damage. Don't mount lights in a way that might damage the cords and avoid using nails or tacks. Use hooks or insulated staples instead.

9. Secure candles. Keep candles on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Never leave a lit candle unattended.

10. Use unbreakable ornaments. If you have fragile ornament, place them out of reach from pets and kids.

11. Skip the fake food. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food if you have young children in the house.

12. Beware of poisonous plants. While festive, poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets.

There may be additional safety requirements differences for your on-duty decorating. Check with your installation fire department for local information as well as Air Force Instruction 91-203 (6.2.13) which lists the following guidance for workplace decorations:

1. Electric string lights and wiring must be UL (or equivalent) approved and in good operating condition.
2. Unplug all electrical decorations when work area is unoccupied.
3. Decorations shall be noncombustible or fire retardant.
4. Larger decorations, i.e., Christmas trees or fake fireplaces, if authorized, shall not block exits or paths of egress.
5. Decorations utilizing an open flame are prohibited.

One of the most common injury-causing hazards during this season is the use - or the improper use - of ladders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 6,000 people are treated in emergency departments every year for holiday decorating-related falls. Almost half of those falls are from ladders, and men are much more likely than women to be injured. Many people sustain injuries from falling off the roof while mounting lights or other decorations and from falling off furniture they stand on to hang indoor decorations up high. Here are some tips when decorating on or from your roof:

· Install lights/decorations on a good-weather day, i.e., no wind, ice, snow or rain
· Check lights/decoration on ground to make sure they work properly
· Make sure you have the proper equipment for installation:
-- clips made for hanging lights, such as gutter clips and trim clips
-- good shoes with plenty of traction
-- correct ladder in size and construction
· Make sure lights/decorations are UL approved for outdoor use and follow manufacturer's recommendations
· Make sure lights/decorations do not have exposed wires, frayed edges, loose connections, or broken or cracked sockets
· Use a good sturdy extension ladder that will extend three feet above the edge of the roof
· Make sure your ladder is set on stable, even ground so it doesn't fall while in use
· Use a ladder as much as possible so you don't have to climb up on a roof. Remember that decorative lights are made for temporary use and should be taken down within 90 days to prevent damage caused by weather
· Never hang lights near (or on) power lines or feeder lines. Feeder lines are the lines that go from the power pole to your house

Below is more information to help your decorating a safety success: