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Illuminate your holiday season with safety

Decorate safely this holiday season. Cherished family memories often involve the twinkling lights of decorations inside and outside the home. Don't let the bright and colorful sparkle of the season distract you from taking the precautions that you need to stay safe when decorating. Valley Rural Electric Cooperative and Safe Electricity provides these tips as you prepare for the holidays.

If you are using an artificial tree, make sure you choose one with fire resistance protection. With a real tree, make sure that the needles are green and sturdy with a trunk that is sticky with resin. These are indicators that your tree is well-hydrated. Keep your tree stand filled with water so that the tree does not become overly dry and present a fire risk.

Never place your tree near heat sources, such as fireplaces, space heaters, or radiators, which can become fire hazards. Also, keep your tree away from drapes or curtains. And always know the location of your fire extinguisher.

Person inspecting a strand of holiday lights Any lights that are hung either inside or outside the home should have a label indicating that they have been certified by an accredited independent testing laboratory. Make sure the lights are rated for the location in which they will be used—whether indoors or outside. Before hanging your lights, check the strands for broken bulbs as well as fraying or bare wires that could pose electrical dangers. Always replace damaged products.

If you need to reach overhead, do not stand on a chair or desk; use a step stool or ladder. Use one with a study base, and place it on a stable surface. After mounting the ladder, always climb facing toward the rungs.

Typically, one extension cord should only have three strands of lights connected to it at most, but you should also check that the extension cord is rated for its intended use. If you need to use extension cords for outdoor decorating, use only heavy-duty cords designated for outdoor use. Never run extension cords under carpets, through doorways, or where they could be damaged by furniture.

When decorating outside, always be sure to look up and double check that you and any equipment, such as a ladder or a light strand, are a minimum 10 feet away from overhead power lines. This includes the service connection to your home.

When securing light strands, never staple or nail them into place, as this could damage the product. Instead, rest the cords on the nails or tacks, or use plastic clips instead to avoid problems.

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet Outdoor lights and decorations should be plugged into an outlet with ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. GFCIs are inexpensive electrical devices that can be installed in a home's electrical system or built into a power cord to protect against electrical shock. A GFCI constantly monitors the flow of electricity through a circuit and will shut the circuit down if it senses a ground fault.

Be sure to turn off all lights before leaving the home or going to sleep. A timer can help you do this. Leaving your lights on continually presents the risk of lights shorting out and resulting in an electrical fire.

Valley Rural Electric Cooperative and Safe Electricity hope your season will be merry, bright, and safe. For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Article and images courtesy of SafeElectricity.org. with modifications by Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.

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