Christmas Light Safety
Remember “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase? I love that movie because all the safety references are hilarious, but my favorite part of the movie is when Clark Griswald finally has all of the Christmas lights on his house, after many safety mishaps, and he plugs in the single extension cord, only to find the lights don’t work. Clark brainstorms the lighting issue, checks bulbs, and fiddles with the lights for hours. Finally, his wife hits a switch in the house, and the lights come on in all of their glory, blinding the neighbors and causing a power surge. Through everything, Clark manages to hurt himself and his hateful neighbors repeatedly, causing some uproarious on-screen laughter. Unfortunately, in real life, the safety mishaps Clark encounters are not funny, so let’s look at some safety concerns you can address before you light up the house this year.
Check Your Supplies
Every year before stringing lights, you should evaluate your supplies. Making sure your lights and tools are up to code will help you maintain a safe and joyful holiday season. The following are some things to check:
- Assess your lights. Unravel your strings of lights to check for broken bulbs, frayed wires, and unlit lights. Replacing bulbs or entire strings before stringing can decrease your chance of electrocution and fires (and increase your chance of a properly lit house).
- Check out your tools. Make sure you have the proper tools for your lighting job. Use insulated holders to attach lights to the house, and always use outdoor lights and extension cords when lighting the exterior of your home.
- Use proper ladder safety. Make sure your ladder is long enough, that you have a spotter/helper, and that you always maintain three points of contact on your ladder.
Watch the Weather
It may be common sense to wait out storms before hanging lights, but some injuries still occur because of bad timing. Your roof and sidewalks should be free and clear of ice patches before you hang lights. The temperature should be warm enough to avoid injury, and you should wear properly insulated clothing for the weather. Many people prefer to hang lights before winter weather hits, often before Thanksgiving, so feel free to hang them (just be sure to follow the unwritten rule and don’t turn them on before Black Friday!).
Keep Safety in Mind
Always keep safety in mind when hanging lights. Don’t try shortcuts – they often lead to injuries. Some more tips for light safety include:
- Use a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter), Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) outlet, or circuit with a safety switch to plug in all outdoor lights. If any snow or water happens to be around the outlet or underfoot when you plug in or unplug the lights, the outlet will trip, removing power (and saving you from injury).
- Respect power lines. Decorate far from the power entry point to your home.
- Follow directions on extension cords. Never overload extension cords or outlets with too many lights – overloaded cords can get hot enough to start a fire.
Christmas lights are important, festive reminders of the holiday season. Many people enjoy lighting their homes during the holidays, but remember, the holidays are much nicer with you around, injury-free. Following safety precautions with your own Christmas lights can ensure you and your family will enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season.