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BBB Advice: Protecting Your Home From A Decorating Disaster

While Christmas lighting and electrical decorations contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and injuries if not used safely and properly.

According to a 2013 Electrical Safety Foundation International consumer survey, more than 86 percent of Americans decorate their homes as part of their holiday celebrations. Almost two-thirds of respondents use electrical lights in their indoor decorations, while more than half use lights outside their homes.

Every year homeowners suffer serious losses from fire destruction with the cost of damages running into billions of dollars. For added protection, make sure you have an up-to-date homeowner’s insurance policy that adequately covers both your home and possessions.

BBB and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has the following advice to help prevent electrical, fire and other hazards while decking your halls:

Trees:
• When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
• When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "fire-resistant."
• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and touching a branch could lead to electrocution.

Fireplaces:
• Have your fireplace cleaned before your first use.
• Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from the fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
• Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as paper wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Holiday Lighting:
• Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant and non-combustible materials.
• Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in.
• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

Decorations:
• In homes with small children, avoid decorations that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in his/her mouth.
• Use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials to adorn your tree. Choose tinsel and artificial icicles along with non-leaded metals.
• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

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