During these winter holiday months, everyone breaks out their space heaters, electric blankets and lots of holiday decorations. It’s no wonder that more home fires occur during winter than during any other part of the year.
“Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States,” said Tom VanParis, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fires result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.”
If not used properly, portable electric space heaters and electric blankets can lead to fire and electric shock. Beware of space heaters without adequate safety features, space heaters placed near combustibles, or space heaters that are improperly plugged in. Never fold electric blankets or use them while sleeping. Inspect them for dark, charred, or frayed spots and check to see if the electric cord is cracked or frayed. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using them in your home.
During this time of year, many families are anxious to get into the holiday spirit. To keep you and your family safe, be sure to consider electrically-safe options. Always choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant, and be aware of what you’re buying at the store. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Using indoor lighting outdoors where it could be damp can cause electrocution or be a fire hazard. When hanging up festive lights and decorations, use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
Adding lights to your tree or around the house is a popular tradition, but be sure to read manufacturer’s instructions. Knowing the number of light strands to connect end-to-end is key to safe decorating – as a general rule, it’s three. When powering these lights, give your electrical outlets a break by not overloading them. Once your home is lit up for the whole neighborhood to see, be sure to turn off all of these lights before going to bed or leaving the house. This will ensure the safety of your family and home. Be aware of electrical dangers that may occur, and preserve the holiday spirit all season long.
Electric Space Heaters and Blankets: Dos and Don’ts
- DO read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using any space heater or electric blanket.
- DON’T leave a space heater or electric heating blanket unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep.
- DO inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use.
- DON’T use the heater if plugs are frayed, worn or damaged.
- DO keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- DON’T use an electric blanket if there are dark, charred or frayed spots.
- DO plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire.
- DON’T use electric blankets while sleeping or as a mattress pad.
- DON’T place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- DON’T fold an electric blanket when it’s in use. Folded or tucked blankets could overheat and cause a fire.
Decorating for Electrical Safety!
- When shopping for lights, electric decorations and extension cords, purchase only the ones that are UL-listed.
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Read and follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
- If planning to decorate outdoors, make sure the decorations are suitable for outdoor use. Putting indoor-only products outside in the weather can result in electric shock and is a fire hazard.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters.
- Exercise caution when decorating near power lines. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines.
- Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses or making any other repairs.
- If you need to replace a bulb in a string of Christmas lights, make sure the wattage rating of the replacement bulb you’re using matches that of the light strand.
- When hanging holiday lights outdoors, avoid electric shock by using a wood or fiberglass-reinforced plastic ladder instead of a metal ladder.
- Avoid overpowering extension cords. Separately plug in each light to the wall for safe use.
- Always turn off all lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house.
- When hanging up festive lights and decorations, use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.