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Safety Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights

Dec 23, 2013 | by Wendy Weinert

For many people, decorating for the holidays is one of the most pleasurable aspects of the season. From lights illuminating the front of one's home to a festive indoor tree, decorations are a great way to catch the holiday spirit. Despite the beauty of holiday displays, people must hang them with care and caution to prevent accidents and injuries. For a safe holiday season, it is crucial that people learn how to properly check and string their indoor and outdoor lights. In addition, it is equally important that they make wise choices in the decorations that they use and in how they display them.


Lights are a popular way to decorate one's home during the holiday season. Often, people go to great lengths to make their home a dazzling display of lights both indoors and out. Safety precautions are important when it comes to (lighting) both areas, however, and failure to take the right safety steps can result in a dangerous situation such as a fire or death. Before putting up either outdoor or indoor holiday lights, it is important to check that the lights themselves are not damaged. To do this, lay them flat on the ground and look for problems such as frayed wiring or bulbs that are broken. Only use holiday lights that have been tested by UL or Underwriters Laboratories. Choose the appropriate lights for the environment in which they'll be used. For example, select lights labeled for outdoor use when hanging lights outdoors. When using an extension cord, use no more than three standard sets. According to the National Safety Council, insulated holders are a better choice when hanging wires as opposed to staples or nails. When using lights to decorate indoors, only use them on fresh, well-watered trees or fire-resistant artificial trees. No matter where lights are located, keep in mind that they are for limited use during the holidays and should be removed afterwards.


As previously mentioned, when discussing holiday lighting, real Christmas trees should be fresh, green, and free of dry needles. A good way to check the freshness of the tree before purchasing it is to pull at the needles or attempt to break them. Fresh needles are difficult to pull out and will not snap or break. Ideally they should be placed in a location that is away from fireplaces and water should be kept in the stand. Some people choose to decorate using artificial trees as opposed to buying a freshly cut one. Check labels when purchasing a tree and only consider ones that are labeled as fire-resistant. Despite its resistance to fire, an artificial tree that carries this label can still potentially catch fire and many of the same precautions taken with live trees should still be used. For example, keep trees away from open flames such as fireplaces and candles.

Tree trimmings should be flame-resistant and not contain any materials that are made of lead and, as a result, poisonous to children. This means purchasing plastic tinsel to decorate the tree and any metal decorations should be non-leaded. If small children are in the home, choose decorations wisely. Any decoration that resembles food or candy should be placed up high enough so that it is out of their reach. This should also be done for ornaments that contain small or moveable parts that a child may attempt to ingest.

Artificial Snow

Artificial snow is an aerosol spray that is made up of long-chain fatty acids as well as wax. When sprayed, it can cause irritation of the lungs and breathing problems if inhaled. In addition, it is mildly toxic to animals and represents a danger to their health. To avoid complications from the use of this type of decoration, read the instructions for use carefully before using artificial snow and read the instructions before use.


Candles are commonly used for both mood and decoration during the holidays. Because of the obvious threat of fire, it is important that people use caution when lighting them. Candles should never be used near curtains, Christmas trees or other evergreens such as wreaths. Because children are highly active, particularly on Christmas, place candles in a location that is out of their reach. Candles should also be placed in a location where they cannot be accidentally knocked over by children or pets. When leaving a room unattended, candles should always be blown out. During the holidays, one may also consider artificial or flameless candles.


Christmas trees, candles and decorative lighting are just a few of the ways that a fire can start during the holiday season. FEMA notes that cooking-related fires also increase during this period, which is typically associated with the increase in kitchen activities. Cooking food should never be left unattended nor should small children be allowed within three feet of the stove. They also state that equipment fueled by gas, such as gas stoves are also a very common threat. Fireplaces are also a danger during this season as many people do not recognize things that should not go into them. Wrapping paper, for example, should not be placed in a burning fire as there is the threat of a flash fire. People should not attempt to burn green needles from trees or decorations, nor should they attempt to burn ribbons or bows. As always, children should be supervised and kept away from fireplaces or any open flame. Every floor in the home should have a working fire alarm and guests and family members should be aware of the fire escape plan in the event of a fire.