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Add Safety to Your Holiday Traditions

Shawn Miller at State FairFor millions of people every year, the holiday season comes with traditions of festive lights and decorations, extraordinary foods and lavish parties. Unfortunately, time-honored traditions can easily end in tragedy if precautions are not taken. Make a point to take care of yourself and those you love by taking time to decorate safely—without skipping any safety steps.

Shawn Miller knows firsthand how important every safety step is and how quickly this holiday activity can turn tragic. Each year, he would help his mother decorate her yard, and each year, the display grew as she added another area. That year, she decided to light the large trees in the far front. As Shawn tossed lights up into the trees, they came in contact with overhead power lines and he received a high voltage shock. He was hospitalized for months, went through numerous surgeries and lost his dominant hand (see his story here).

Miller and Safe Electricity urge everyone to follow these precautions:

  • When decorating outside, look up and look out. Never throw holiday lights or other decorations into trees near power lines.
  • Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep ladders, equipment, and yourself at least 10 feet from power lines.
  • Use only lights, cords, animated displays, and decorations rated for outdoor use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use them. Use plastic or insulated hooks to hang lights.
  • Cords should be plugged into outlets equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). Use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets are not equipped with them. GFCI protection is very important outdoors, where weather conditions can create dangerous electrical situations.
  • Do not staple or nail through light strings or electrical cords, and do not attach anything to utility poles.
  • Outdoor holiday lights are for seasonal use, up to 90 days. Bring them inside after the holidays.
  • Avoid decorating outside on windy or wet days. Choose to decorate in favorable weather conditions and during daylight hours.

Check out kitchen and cooking safety tips, ideas for safety-related gifts and more in the Tips section of this site. Safe Electricity hopes your season will be full happy and safe traditions.