Starkville Utilities Urges Customers to Decorate Safely for the Holidays
Follow these tips to prevent accidents and common household hazards
The holiday season may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also the most precarious in terms of falls, fires and electrical hazards. That’s why Starkville Utilities is reminding customers to focus on safety while decorating homes and yards for the holidays.
“Unpacking and putting up decorations is a favorite tradition for many families right now,” said Edward Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “We’re sharing safety tips to raise awareness about hazards that tend to increase during the holidays and ways that our customers can prevent injuries and accidents.”
Decorating may not seem dangerous, but statistics prove otherwise. On average, there are around 160 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, with almost half involving falls, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Fires also flare up during the holidays. The CPSC reports that from 2016 to 2018, around 100 Christmas tree fires and 1,100 candle fires were reported in November and December each year, resulting in 30 deaths, 180 injuries and nearly $56 million in annual property loss.
By following tips to eliminate hazards, customers can prevent falls, fires and electrical shocks this holiday season, starting with these:
- Ladder etiquette: Always position ladders on firm, even surfaces. When hanging lights outdoors, use ladders made of non-conductive materials like wood or fiberglass-reinforced plastic to reduce the risk of electric shock. Avoid standing on furniture.
- Risk-free trees: In terms of fire prevention, the safest choice is an artificial tree made with fire-resistant materials. If using a live tree, make sure it’s fresh when purchased and has plenty of water. Once a tree dries out, it is unsafe and should be removed immediately. Avoid using electric lights on metallic trees, which could easily become charged with electricity and deliver a shock if touched.
- Can the candles: Candles are not safe, especially if you have children or pets who are prone to accidentally knocking things over. Consider using flameless candles instead. If using real candles, place lit candles well out of the way of flammable materials like curtains or wrapping paper.
- Safe distancing: Keep decorations at least three feet from heat sources, especially those with an open flame, such as fireplaces and candles.
- Out with the old: Inspect lights and decorations for signs of damage to wire insulation, plugs and bulbs. If cords and plugs are damaged, discard and replace the decoration. Also get rid of old lights. Modern lights have fused plugs to prevent sparks in the event of a short circuit.
- Be alarmed: Ensure working smoke alarms are installed in each bedroom and outside of sleeping areas on every level, including the basement.
- Lights out: Most deadly fires happen when people are asleep. Always turn off all lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house. Every so often, check Christmas light wires to make sure they are not warm to the touch.
- Lead with LED: Use safer LED lights instead of incandescent lights. LED lights produce very little heat, last up to 25 times longer and use 75% less electricity.
- Never overload: Know the wattage rating of extension cords and the power requirements of lights and decorations plugged into them. Use only three light strands per wall outlet and consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead for added protection.
- Stay cool. Keep phones and tablets on your nightstand; overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.
For more tips, visit Electrical Safety Foundation International at https://www.esfi.org/
“It’s always worth it to make safety a priority,” Kemp said, “especially as families prepare to gather for the holidays.”
Starkville Utilities is a municipally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving more than 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville as well as the state’s largest institution of higher learning, Mississippi State University.