Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 15, 2012

Editorial - Nov. 15, 2012: Ensure safety with displays


The issue: Indoor and outdoor Christmas displays.

Our view: The holiday season is no time for a house fire. Take precautions.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees get the blame for an average of 210 house fires every year.

Those fires cause an average of 24 deaths and 27 injuries, and they result in more than $13 million in damage.

This weekend and next, many area families will pull their Christmas decorations out of storage or visit a local tree farm. We noticed many Kokomo area homeowners taking advantage of the warm weather last weekend to hang lights and garland around a home’s exterior.

Here are a few tips to make sure your family doesn’t join the national statistics.

• Never overload extension cords, and check the wires periodically to make sure they’re not warm to the touch.

• Always turn off all Christmas lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Be sure that you buy only those lights and decorations that have been approved by Underwriters Laboratories, and when you decorate outdoors, make sure that you use the proper lights and decorations. Putting indoor products outside can lead to electrical shock or fire.

If you’re in doubt as to whether light strings are rated for outdoor use, check the color-coded UL mark on the package. A green mark means the product should be used only indoors while a red one indicates that the product is safe either indoors or outdoors.

• Be sure to inspect all decorations – both new and old – for signs of damage. If cords and plugs are damaged, throw them away.

• When hanging Christmas lights outdoors, avoid metal ladders, which can increase your risk of electrical shock.

• If you choose an artificial tree, be sure it’s fire resistant.

• If you opt for a live tree, make sure it’s fresh. Bend the needles between your fingers. If they break, the tree is too dry. Also make sure the tree trunk’s cut surface is sticky to the touch, and then as a final precaution, pick the tree up vertically and tap the trunk against the ground. If needles fall off, move on to another tree.

• Before putting your new Christmas tree into its stand, cut a couple of inches off the bottom to expose fresher, and more absorbent, wood. And keep your tree well watered. As a general rule, live trees require a quart of water each day for every inch of trunk diameter.

• Position the tree at least 3 feet from candles, fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, heat vents and other heat sources.

Christmas is no time for a house fire. Have a safe and joyful holiday season.