Enjoy a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season by Decorating Safely

Tips from Starkville Utilities can help prevent fire and electrical hazards

As Starkville begins to sparkle with holiday lights and decorations, Starkville Utilities is encouraging customers to decorate safely and prevent accidents and injuries.

“Electricity plays a major role in holiday decorations, so it’s important for customers to be aware of their surroundings to avoid electrical hazards and prevent fires,” said Terry Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “It pays to be proactive by reviewing safety reminders and taking a few extra steps to keep our homes and families safe.”

Statistics prove that electrical shocks, fires and falls increase during the holidays. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that on average, there are around 160 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, with almost half involving falls.

Customers can prevent falls by using ladders when decorating hard-to-reach spaces and positioning them on firm, even surfaces. Avoid standing on furniture. When hanging lights outdoors, use ladders made of non-conductive materials like wood or fiberglass-reinforced plastic to reduce the risk of electric shock.

Christmas trees and candles are also problematic. The CPSC reports that from 2016 to 2018, approximately 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.

The easiest way to avoid Christmas tree fires is to invest in artificial trees 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.

Candles are not safe, especially if you have children or pets who are prone to accidentally knocking things over. Place lit candles well out of the way of flammable materials like curtains or wrapping paper. Considering using flameless candles instead.

These additional tips will help customers eliminate hazards and prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Buy only UL-listed products when shopping for lights, electric decorations and extension cords. If decorating outdoors, use lights and decorations that are rated for outdoor use.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Avoid using electric lights on metallic trees, which could easily become charged with electricity and deliver a shock if touched.
  • Keep light bulbs from resting on tree needles and branches. Use a clip or twist-tie to keep bulbs upright.
  • Know the wattage rating of extension cords and the power requirements of lights and decorations plugged into them. Use only three light strands per outlet and consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead for added protection.
  • Refrain from placing cords under rugs and doors or through windows where they might be pinched or become worn.
  • Keep decorations at least 3 feet from heat sources, especially those with an open flame, such as fireplaces and candles.
  • 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.
  • Ensure working smoke alarms are installed in each bedroom and outside of sleeping areas on every level, including the basement.
  • Keep phones and tablets on your nightstand; overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.

For more tips, visit Electrical Safety Foundation International at

“We urge our customers to always make safety a priority,” Kemp said. “That’s the best way to experience a safe and happy holiday season.”

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.

We are a Water and Electric Utilities Company in Starkville