They make a great holiday comedy, but the Griswald family did not set the standard for good Christmas decorating. Sure they had the brightest house in town, but it came at the price of knocking out power around the block, blowing up Uncle Lewis and toasting the cat.
Yes, decorative lights add warmth and ambiance to holiday gatherings, but they should always be hung with care. And while burning logs in the fireplace make for cozy Christmas nights, gas, fire and smoke are the three biggest household threats of the season.
So CSA International, a leader in testing and certification, has created the following checklist to help Canadians avoid common seasonal dangers and keep the holidays glowing bright.
Out with the old. Carefully inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.
Size íem up. Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs and check to ensure replacement bulbs match the voltage and wattage of the original. Make certain that bulb reflectors are the correct size for the light string.
Spot the mark. When purchasing light strings, extension cords and electrical decorations, look for a certification mark such as one from CSA International that provides assurance that the products are tested and certified to the applicable standards for safety and performance. Also, ensure that outdoor light strings, cords, spotlights and floodlights are certified by CSA International and marked for outdoor use.
Donít be tacky. Never hang decorations from fire sprinklers, or allow them to obstruct exit corridors or exit signs, fire extinguishers and hose cabinets. Never tack or staple lighting strings or extension cords to a wall or cubicle. When hanging lights outdoors, keep electrical connectors above ground, out of puddles and snow and away from metal eavestroughs. Use insulated fasteners rather than metal nails or tacks to hold light strings in place.
Safe storage. After the holidays, wrap and store lights and decorations in their original packaging, as they likely contain manufacturerís instructions on replacement bulbs and details for proper product use. Remove outdoor lights promptly after the holiday season to avoid damage caused by extended exposure to harsh weather conditions.
Watch the flicker of candles. Do not use open flames or candles on or near flammable materials such as wreaths, trees or paper decorations.
Designate those decorations. When decorating the tree, place breakable ornaments on the higher limbs to protect children and pets. Remember to always use flame-resistant decorations.
Donít get juiced. Before working with outdoor wiring, turn off the electricity to the supply outlet and unplug the connection.
Fresh or fake, be safe. If you buy a real tree, make sure itís fresh. Fresh trees will be less likely to dry out and become a fire hazard. Artificial trees with electrical lights should have a certification mark on them and should be made of fire-resistant material.
Pardon the interruption. Whenever possible, connect all outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by weatherproof ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These can provide protection from electric shock by sensing ground leakage and cutting electrical power.
Keep fire in its place. Do not use your gas fireplace if the glass panel is removed, cracked or broken. Glass panels and frame assemblies should only be replaced by a qualified service professional. When purchasing or installing a gas fireplace, check for the mark of an accredited certification organization, such as the Flame mark from CSA International. Remember to keep pets and children away from fireplaces (and other hot surfaces).
Sleep in peace. Carbon-monoxide alarms: Install at least one carbon-monoxide (CO) alarm near bedrooms. Use more than one CO alarm if sleeping areas are located on different levels of your home. Follow the manufacturerís instructions for installing and maintaining your CO alarms. When purchasing a CO alarm, check for the mark of an accredited certification organization such as the certification Flame and CSA 6.19-01 reference mark from CSA International.
Testing, testing. Test your smoke alarms monthly. One smoke alarm is not enough; install them on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Only working smoke alarms can give you the precious seconds you may need to escape a fire.
Donít Blow It. Do not store combustible materials such as gasoline, propane, paper, chemicals, paint, rags and cleaning products near your gas furnace. Gasoline or propane cylinders must be stored outside the home. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids anywhere near your gas furnace or water heater. Look for the familiar CSA International certification Flame mark on your gas-fired furnace or water heater to ensure it has been tested and certified to the applicable standard. Have a qualified heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check of your furnace and venting system.