Christmas and New Year is a time for a summer of merriment and family festivities. To get with the holiday spirit, people deck their home with wreaths, candles, sparkly and blinking lights and other decorations. But while they’re something that adds more excitement and happiness to the festive season, don’t forget that they are also something of a fire hazard.
Yes, it is the season to be jolly, but fire can still happen if we forget to follow important safety precautions. Make your home ready for Christmas and New Year by approaching the festivities with caution.
Picking your Christmas tree
Pine trees are not native to Australia, but there are many different species of native trees that you can transform into a Christmas tree.
If you are using a fresh tree, choose one with green needles or leaves, not brown, because it means the tree is dry and is more likely to catch fire. To prevent the tree from drying out, water it regularly. Make sure the stand you put it in has enough space for a water reservoir. Shake the tree to see the amount of needles or leaves that fall from it. If there is a lot, it means the tree is not getting sufficient water.
If you prefer an artificial tree, choose one with a label that says “fire retardant.”
Place your tree at least three feet away from a heat source, like a fireplace, radiator or heat vents. Keep it out of the way of traffic and near doorways.
Make sure the tinsel and other decorations that you hang on your tree are made from plastic, non-leaded metals and other non-combustible or flame-retardant materials.
Never use lit candles to light your tree. Use artificial candles instead. If you want to light a candle at Christmas time, put in the non-flammable holder and position it where it cannot be easily knocked down.
Checking your Christmas lights
Faulty lights can cause house fires. This is why it is important to inspect them before they go up the tree, outside and inside your home.
But first, there are lights for indoor and for outdoor use. Check the packaging or the lights itself for the label. Make sure you are using the appropriate lights in the appropriate setting. Use only Australia-compliant lights with Australian certificate of approval.
If you are buying online from overseas, take note that other countries have different safety standards and these products may pose risk when used in Australia. Electrical equipment and devices must pass strict electrical safety standards before they can be sold in the country.
If you are buying second-hnad lights, from weekend markets, for example, have a licensed electrician check them first to ensure they are safe to use. They may not be compliant anymore because the safety standards in Australia have changed significantly over the years.
Safety experts recommend to use battery-operated LED Christmas and faery lights as they are energy efficient and don’t get hot compared to the non-LED counterparts.
Check your old Christmas lights before using them this year. Look at the plug, leads and lamp holders to check if there are by exposed wire or damage. If you are a little concerned about the condition of your lights, call a licensed electrician to check them.
Setting up your Christmas decorations safely
Electrical faults are a major cause of house fires. This is why homeowners are urged to ensure their Christmas lights and decorations are used properly. This doesn’t mean being conservative in the number of lights and decorations you put up for Christmas. It just means making sure you don’t overload your power boards by following some rules.
A maximum of three standard size sets of lights per power board must be used and electrical cords must not be covered by a rug or mat.
Install a safety switch to your switchboard to warn you of any power imbalance that may cause an electric shock. The switch can potentially save a life by stopping the flow of current immediately.
There is no reason to skimp on lights; just make sure to use power boards equipped with overload protection. For extension leads, use those that are factory-made or those made by a licensed electrician.
There have been only a few incidents involving fires caused by Christmas lights. However, it could turn serious if the lights are attached to flammable materials like a dry Christmas tree.
In addition, don’t use fire sprinklers to hang you Christmas decorations. Sprinklers must be free from obstruction so they can detect smoke without any problem. Make sure the smoke alarms in your home are working properly. In case of a fire, smoke alarms will help the occupants in the property to escape in plenty of time.
When the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, dispose of all your live decorations. Don’t leave dried leaves, wreaths and garlands inside the home, garage, storage building or outside the property as these things are fire hazards.
Fire can quickly turn the holidays from joyous to tragic. Property owners and tenants can prevent a disaster from happening during this time of year by taking basic precautions.