The Morning After: NFPA, UL Offer Post-Holiday Safety Tips

With the onset of post-holiday activity, it's important to keep safety at top of mind. That's the message from the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety testing organization, who have joined together to remind consumers to practice safety as they put away holiday decorations. According to the NFPA, 13 percent of the home fires attributed to Christmas trees have occurred in January. The association recommends consumers remove real trees from their home and properly dispose of them once their holiday celebration ends.

"Christmas trees--real or artificial--can be a significant fuel source if a fire occurs in your home," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of communications. "Even a well-watered tree should be taken down after four weeks. If you decorated your real tree right after Thanksgiving, it should be discarded the week after Christmas."

Christmas trees are not the only holiday decorations that need prompt attention after the holidays. All electric decorations should also be taken down and put away. “Holiday lights are considered seasonal and should not be up longer than 90 days,” said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for UL. “If you leave decorations out any longer, they will be more prone to damage, which could cause an electrical shock or fire hazard.”

As you unplug and store holiday decorations, the NFPA and UL remind you that practicing safety now can keep decorations in working condition and prevent potential hazards from occurring next year. Following are safety tips consumers can use any time when putting away seasonal decorations:

  • To unplug electric decorations, use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets. Doing so can damage the cord’s wire and insulation and even lead to an electrical shock or fire.
  • As you're putting away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for flaws. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken or cracked sockets or frayed or bare wires.
  • Do not place a faulty set of lights back into the storage box for next year's use.
  • Take the initiative now and throw out worn light strings. Shop for replacements during after-Christmas sales or add lights to your Christmas decoration list for next year.
  • Be sure to pack lights appropriately. No one likes to untangle a web of lights. When preparing your holiday lights for storage, consider purchasing a holiday light storage reel, or create your own system.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place, such as a suitcase, where they cannot be damaged by water or dampness. Also, keep them away from children and pets to ensure that cords and wires are not damaged in storage.

Additionally, to preserve and ensure the longevity of your holiday decorations:

  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around an empty wrapping paper tube or cardboard square. If you wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard, cut a slit in one side of the square. Thread the end of a set of lights through the slit. Wrap the lights around the cardboard, threading the other end back through the slit.
  • Although the box your artificial tree came in may seem like the perfect one to repack it in for storing, this isn’t the wisest idea for preservation. The cardboard boxes begin to deteriorate making them more prone to insect infestation.
  • Special ornaments benefit from being stored in their original packaging. If you throw out the original box, store smaller ornaments in an egg carton.
  • Save yourself time next year by thoroughly labeling decorations before storing. Make a detailed inventory on the outside of each container. Number each to keep track of how many you have (for example, Box 1 of 12) and consider taping a piece of wrapping paper on the outside of each container for easy holiday storage identification.

For more information regarding holiday decorating safety, footage of how quickly a dry Christmas tree incinerates or photos related to holiday decoration safety, visit the UL Newsroom Web site at http://www.ul.com/newsroom or the NFPA Web site at www.nfpa.org.

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