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Are Your Holiday Lights Safe?

Southern California Edison shares important tips on holiday lighting and safety.

Southern California Edison today urged Southlanders to check for overloaded wall plugs, frayed light strings and other electrical safety and fire hazards to ensure a safe holiday season.

"It seems like there's never enough time to get all the preparations done for the holidays,'' said Bill Messner, SCE's acting director of corporate environment, health and safety. "But this year, we hope people will take a few moments to make sure their equipment is in good working order, and that there are no unsafe situations in the home. Most accidents are preventable.''

According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Thirty percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during December, January and February.
  • Christmas tree and holiday decoration fires result in twice the number of injuries and five times more fatalities per fire than the average winter holiday fire.
  • On average, 260 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year, resulting in 12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage.
  • Candles start 45 percent of home decoration fires.
  • Nearly 6,000 people a year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations. More than half of these injuries involve falls from ladders or roofs while decorating outdoors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords result in emergency room visits. Thirteen percent of these injuries involve children under age five. Electrical burns to the mouth accounted for 50 percent of the injuries to young children.

SCE offered the following holiday lighting safety tips:

  • Put lights on a timer, and unplug them when you leave the house. This also helps save energy and money.
  • Beware of counterfeit or poor quality electrical products. Use only lighting and cords approved by the Underwriters Laboratories -- UL -- an independent, nonprofit organization that tests electrical components and equipment for potential hazards.
  • LED holiday lights are a fraction of the cost to run, and they don't get as hot as incandescent holiday lights, reducing the chance of a fire. You can learn about free holiday light exchanges at http://www.sce.com/holidaylighting.
  • Only use electrical cords and light strands that are in good condition; don't overload outlets; and  use only three strands per outlet or a surge protector.
  • When hanging lights make sure staples, tacks and nails do not pierce or pinch wires. Loop a plastic zip cord around the lighting strand and secure the zip cord to the wall.

For more tips on lighting and safety during the holidays, visit the SCE's website.

--City News Service

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