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No matter how you celebrate, a happy holiday is a safe one. Yet many of the things we do to “deck the halls” and celebrate holiday traditions may pose safety risks in our homes. Here’s our list of three potential holiday safety hazards with helpful hints on how to avoid them. Happy holidays!
It’s fun to decorate with festive lights and holiday ornaments, but be sure to use the right tools for the job. Try to avoid metallic ornaments, which can conduct electricity, and look for seasonal decorations that are flame-resistant and certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). It isn’t safe to assume that indoor lights and extension cords can be used outside, or vice versa. And don’t underestimate the risk of burned-out bulbs, exposed electrical wires, broken sockets, damaged lights or loose connections.
What to do
Always ensure you use outdoor lights when decorating outside your home. They’re made to withstand winter temperatures, as well as ice and snow.
Indoors, be careful when using incandescent lights, as they heat up quickly. Keep them away from flammable materials or opt for energy-efficient LEDs.
Ensure all electrical products are certified for electrical safety. If you don’t know what to look for, consult
ESA Safe. Inside or outside, always use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets to prevent electric shock and electrocution.
Inspect all electrical equipment for wear and tear, defective cords or frayed wires. Discard and replace any damaged items.
Pay attention to product recalls and warnings. Products that don’t meet safety standards could give you a shock or spark a fire.
Don’t load up too many devices on a single outlet or power bar. Overloaded circuits are a major cause of residential fires and power outages. Watch for flickering or dimming lights, warm light switches or outlets, crackling or sizzling sounds emanating from electrical outlets, and any tingling or mild shocks from touching appliances or light switches – common signs of overloaded circuits. If the power cuts out in one area of your home, that’s a circuit breaker stepping in to protect you. If you trip a circuit breaker, recognize it as a warning sign, and take steps to lower your energy use in that area or install more circuits.
What to do
Read the manufacturer’s label on all electrical products including lights, extension cords, power bars and automatic timers. Be sure to follow instructions and don’t exceed the recommended wattage.
Know how much your electrical system can handle. The typical home ranges from 100 to 200 amp electrical service, and each room usually has its own circuit, either 15 or 20 amps.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for 80 per cent of the electrical load per circuit. For instance, for a 20 amp circuit, aim for 16 amps, and find other outlets for the additional draw.
Pay attention to heavy-duty power users, like appliances. If you’re cooking up a feast and approaching maximum power use in the kitchen, don’t add to the electrical load. Plug in your lights in another room.
If you’re using incandescent lights, avoid stringing together more than three strands. This can short a circuit or spark a fire, particularly in homes with older electrical systems.
Recognize that power bars do not increase the amount of available electricity in a given circuit – they just increase the number of things you can plug in, which could contribute to overload.
Fire departments know that preventable residential fires are more frequent during the holidays. Don’t forget that seasonal decorations, twinkling lights, candles and Christmas trees introduce fire hazards into your home. Dried-out Christmas trees and garlands are a common cause of fire, and the longer they adorn your home, the drier they get. Candles are another common cause. In fact, candles left unattended account for almost half of residential fires caused by decorations.
Choose a fresh tree with soft needles and water it daily. Place it at least three feet from heat sources. If you prefer an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire-resistant.
Be cautious with candles. Put them in secure spots where they can’t be knocked over, and don’t mount them in your Christmas tree. Never leave candles unattended.
Avoid tucking extension cords under rugs, carpets or other flammables. They can overload and cause a spark.
Ensure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Install a smoke alarm near every sleeping area and on every level of your home.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the home. Ensure both your family members and house guests know where it is and how to use it.
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