One of the biggest pastimes of families when it comes to Christmas time is putting up the Christmas lights inside on the tree and on the outside of the home. However, with setting up Christmas lights, many people forget about the fire dangers involved during the holiday season.
In fact, there are more house fires in the Christmas season than any other time of year. So with the silly season coming up shortly, now is an ideal time to shed some light into how you can improve your home fire safety this Christmas season.
Christmas lights and their potential risks
If you’re wanting to decorate your house with Christmas lights, don’t opt for the cheapest ones. Some Christmas lights aren’t approved for use in Australia and can be very dangerous for a number of reasons. Voltage incompatibility, overheating, insulation problems, and substandard cord connections are just a few examples of the issues you’ll encounter if you don’t buy Australian approved Christmas lights. The types of imported Christmas lights are normally found in discount and bargain stores, so just make sure that they’re approved for use in Australia before purchasing any Christmas lights.
You’ll also want to be careful if you’re using outdoor Christmas lights. Never use indoor Christmas lights outdoors as outdoor lighting requires additional safety standards. Outdoor Christmas lights comes with an IP rating that tells you how waterproof they are, and the minimum rating in Australia is IP23. With IP ratings, the higher they are, the more waterproof they are, so anything above IP23 will be fine to use. High powered outdoor lights (such as halogen lights) can get quite hot, so make sure they’re far away from any flammable materials and never string Christmas lights above the swimming pool!
Fire safety and your Christmas tree
Artificial Christmas trees are the best in terms of fire safety, but always buy an artificial tree that is UL-listed, which is essentially flame retardant. On the other hand, natural Christmas trees can be quite hazardous if you don’t water them and they start to die.
When buying a natural Christmas tree, always check the needles to see if they snap off easily. If so, this means that the tree is too dry and will become a fire hazard over the Christmas period. Once you’ve chosen a fresh Christmas tree, cut off about 5cms at the bottom of the trunk and put the tree in a stand full of water. To keep your tree nice and fresh, add roughly 4 litres of water to it throughout the day. Remember, the fresher your tree, the safer it will be.
Other things to consider
While your Christmas tree and lights are the most common causes of house fires, there are plenty of other factors that should be taken into consideration during this time of year:
- When using your Christmas trees and lights, never overload your electricity sockets. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines in regards to extension cords, even if you are using a surge protector.
- Always turn off your Christmas lights when you’re not at home or when you’re going to bed. Christmas lights can become overheated quickly so it’s a wise idea to give them a breather every now and then.
- Recycle your Christmas tree soon after Christmas. A 2013 report from the NFPA showed that 50% of Christmas tree fires occur in the three weeks after Christmas. Sadly, around 20% of these after-Christmas tree fires were caused by setting the tree on fire as a method of disposal!1 So, dispose of your tree wisely and recycle.
- Make sure that your fire detectors are working properly by testing them and always remember to replace the batteries once a year.
Lastly, fire experts recommend that a multi-purpose fire extinguisher is located on each floor of your house for effective fire safety prevention. In Australia, an ABE fire extinguisher is suitable for carbon based materials (such as Christmas paper) and electrical fires so if you do catch a fire igniting, you can suppress the fire before it intensifies and causes a huge amount of damage to your property.