ESFI and NFPA Help Families Prepare for a Safe Holiday Season

Posted in Announcements

 November 27, 2012, Arlington, Va. — Thanksgiving has come and gone, marking the official start of the holiday season.  As families begin observing their annual holiday traditions, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are joining forces to urge the public to make safety a priority for all of their holiday celebrations and activities.
Findings from a recent ESFI consumer survey indicate that more than 80% of Americans decorate their homes as part of their winter holiday celebrations. While holiday lighting and electrical decorations contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used safely.  According to the NFPA, an average of 230 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year, with another 160  home fires beginning with holiday lights and other decorative lighting.
“Winter is the peak season for home fires, but these fires can be prevented by adopting a proactive approach to safety,” said Lorraine Carli, Vice President of Communications for NFPA. “Understanding the hazards that are commonly associated with the holiday season and following basic safety guidelines can help ensure that the holiday season is happy and disaster free.” 
Each year, ESFI launches a holiday safety awareness campaign to encourage families and communities across the country to Make Safety a Tradition of the winter holiday season. This year, ESFI has partnered with NFPA, the worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety to develop a comprehensive program that educates consumers about the safety concerns prevalent throughout the winter holiday season. 
“Electrical problems are factors in one-third of home Christmas tree fires,” said ESFI President Brett Brenner. “Be sure not to overburden your electrical system, and be vigilant for warning signs such as blown fuses or flickering lights that could signify a serious electrical problem.” 
Follow these basic safety guidelines from ESFI and NFPA to help prevent serious electrical and fire hazards as you decorate your home and yard this holiday season:
Christmas Trees

  • When purchasing a live tree, choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.  A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. 
  • Add water to the tree stand and be sure to add water daily.
  • If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

Lights and Holiday Decor

  • Avoid using candles when possible.  Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight.
  • Choose holiday decorations made with flame-resistant or non-combustible materials.
  • Use only electrical decorations and lights that have been approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Carefully inspect each electrical decoration before use. Cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
  • Follow the use and care instructions that accompany electrical decorations, and always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Keep young children away from holiday lights, electrical decorations, and extension cords to prevent electrical shock and burn injuries.
  • Avoid plugging too many holiday lights and decorations into a single outlet. Overloaded outlets can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together.
  • Make sure any electrical decorations used outdoors are marked for outdoor use.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords and light strings clear of snow and standing water.
  • Use caution when decorating near power lines. Contact with a high-voltage line could lead to electrocution.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

Visit ESFI’s holiday safety website,, to download the complete “Holiday Survival Guide,” which provides all of the safety tips and tools needed to Make Safety a Tradition for your family this holiday season.