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It’s that time of the year again: electric space heaters, holiday lights, new appliances, extra guests in the house… As temperatures drop and the holiday season begins to ramp up, it’s a wonderful time of year and staying safe around electricity will keep the holidays bright for you, your family and friends. As you stay warm, celebrate the holidays this year, and make preparations, please pause to review our electrical safety tips and take care to avoid potential hazards.

Electrical Safety Tip #1: Inspect all electrical appliances and decorations for damage before use.

damaged electrical cord
Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections may cause a serious shock or can start a fire.

  • Before decorating, determine how many outlets are available and where they are located. Plan your displays accordingly.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions that accompany electrical decorations.
  • Match power needs (amperage) of electrical products with amperage rating of extension cords.
  • When putting up outdoor decorations, exercise caution when decorating near power lines. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines.

Electrical Safety Tip #2: Do not overload electrical outlets.


  • Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires.
  • Avoid overloading outlets and only plug one high-wattage appliance into each outlet.
  • Consider installing a surge arrester
  • Ensure that all circuit breakers in the service panel are working properly (switch the breaker completely to the OFF position, then move it back to the ON position. If it doesn’t stay on or there is a humming sound when you switch it on, call an electrician.)
  • If wall socket covers or light switch covers feel warm to the touch, call an electrician immediately.

Electrical Safety Tip #3: Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights.

incandescent christmas lights
More than three strands may not only trip a circuit breaker, but also can cause a fire.

  • Consider purchasing LED lights which use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
  • Make sure spotlights used to illuminate decorations are well-ventilated, protected from weather and a safe distance from flammable items.
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.

Electrical Safety Tip #4: Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations used for outdoor decorating are marked for outdoor use.

outdoor power cord

  • Keep all extension cords and light strings clear of snow and standing water.
  • Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when decorating outdoors. Metal ladders conduct electricity.
  • Use three-pronged plugs only in three-pronged outlets. Never remove a prong from three-pronged plugs – the third prong grounds electricity and is there for safety.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters. If circuits are not GFCI protected, portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold and require no special knowledge or equipment to install.

Electrical Safety Tip #5: Protect electrical cords from damage.

extension cord through window
To avoid shock or fire hazards, cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors or windows, placed under rugs, located near heat sources or attached by nails or staples.

  • Do not place extension cords where they could cause a tripping hazard, like doorways.
  • Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Keep halls, stairs and doorways properly illuminated and free of clutter and other objects that could hinder an escape during a fire emergency.

Electrical Safety Tip #5: Never leave space heaters unattended.

Portable electric heaters are high-wattage appliances that have the potential to ignite nearby combustible materials like curtains, beds, sofas, paper, clothing, and flammable liquids.

  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Purchase and use only portable space heaters that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory and that have an automatic shut-off. When they tip over, they shut off.
  • Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface and keep them and their electrical cords away from things that can burn, high traffic areas, and doorways.
  • Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Do not use heaters in wet or moist areas, such as bathrooms, unless they are specifically built for that purpose. Doing so can not only corrode the heater, but can be a dangerous shock hazard.

Electrical Safety Tip #7: Turn off and unplug all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house.


  • Cover any unused electrical outlets or extension cords with plastic caps to prevent children from coming in contact with the live circuit.
  • Place electrical cords out of the reach of small children.

Electrical Safety Tip #8: Handle electric blankets and heating pads with special care.


  • Never get into bed with a heating pad switched on. Unplug it first otherwise it may overheat and catch fire. Likewise, never lie on top of an electric blanket when it’s switched on. This could also start a fire.
  • Do not fold the electric blanket while it’s being used. This can cause the blanket to overheat and burn out. Make sure the blanket has a mechanism to cut off the power if the blanket overheats.
  • When washing the blanket, make sure it is completely dry before use. Never dry-clean an electrical blanket because the chemicals can damage the heating insulation and increase the risk of fire.

Electrical Safety Tip #8: Be prepared.

fire safety preparedness
Remember that no matter how safety conscious you think you are, things can always go wrong. It is a good idea to prepare for the unexpected.

  • A good functioning smoke alarm can dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.
  • Also a class C fire extinguisher can save lives and damage.
  • Know how to find and turn off the main circuit breaker or fuse.
  • Try to avoid using candles for lighting during a power outage. Instead use flashlights and other battery-powered lights which are not a potential fire hazard.
  • Have the phone number for first response, an emergency electrician you trust, and the local utility companies on hand.
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