Let holiday lights safely brighten the season!
Neighborhood Safe Neighborhood, #15
by Staff Neighborhood Safety Reporter
'Tis the season to be jolly! Festive lights are the holiday cheer we need to lift our spirits. Sensory elements such as light, color and sound have the ability to boost our mental health and mood, as well as bring some joy, and a sense of normalcy back into our holiday traditions.
Visit local light shows, such as:
Botanical Garden ‘d Lights
Every night between 4:30 – 9:00 pm, through Friday, December 31, 2021 (including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve). Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12001 Main Street, Bellevue, 98005
$5.00 per person, 11 years and over; children 10 and under are free.
Every night at 7 pm through December 24th, 2021.
FREE: Experience the wonder of falling ‘snow,’ dazzling lights, festive music, and a parade of toy drummers and dancers. Join us on the sidewalks between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from NE 4th to NE 8th Streets
Light up and brighten your home and neighborhood
Head down to your basement, garage or attic and unpack those holiday decorations. Even if you have already set up your holiday display, please review these safety tips to ensure that your décor is, most importantly, safe for your family and friends. It is easy to forget how hazardous they can be without the proper precautions.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average, there are about 160 decorating-related injuries EACH DAY during the holiday season, with almost half of the incidents involving a fall.
__ Flameless candles
Newer flameless candles provide the ambiance of flickering candlelight without fear of fire (or, yes, the carcinogenic toxins from the soot!) If you ‘must’ use a real candle, be mindful to place them beyond the reach of wandering hands and tails, and well out of the way of flammable materials like curtains or wrapping paper.
__ Prevent your Christmas tree from becoming a fire hazard
Sadly, Christmas Trees are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. U.S. fire departments respond to an average 160 home fires that started from Christmas trees. In almost half of these fires (45%), electrical distribution or lighting equipment played a part in ignition.
If you opt for a real tree, make sure it’s fresh when you buy it and that you keep it well watered. Once your tree dries out, it is no longer safe to keep in your home and should be removed immediately. Don't let light bulbs rest on tree needles and branches. Use a clip or twist-tie to keep bulbs upright.
Inspect lights and plugs; check for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections. Plug them together and test before hanging.
While there are many benefits to a real tree, artificial trees are the safer choice. Check for a "flame resistant" label.
__ Avoid using electric lights on metallic trees
Shiny aluminum and tinsel Christmas trees can bring sparkle to your holiday décor, but if you opt for a metallic tree, avoid using electric lights. The tree could easily become charged with electricity, giving a real “shock” to anyone who touches it.
__ Replace old lights
It may be sentimental to use holiday heirlooms, but old light strands can be very dangerous. Modern lights are much safer, as they have fused plugs to prevent sparks in the event of a short circuit. Look for the UL seal to insure that the lights meet the national industry standards:
If you insist on using your traditional lights, here’s a link to repair and replace bulbs safely:
__ Consider using LED lights
Although they are more expensive, they are a much safer option than incandescent bulbs for BOTH indoor and outdoor lighting. LED lights produce very little heat and use lower wattages, allowing more strings to be connected safely, making decorating easier. Additionally, many LED light sets are rated to last thousands of hours; well beyond a traditional set of incandescent mini lights that typically may last only a season or two.
__ Do NOT connect LED and Incandescent lights together
Incandescent light strings require a larger electrical current than LEDs. Connecting them together causes the power drawn by the incandescent lights to overload — and then fry — the LED strings. Keep holiday lighting strands completely separate, running each out of a different outlet to avoid frying your electrical wiring.
__ Indoor and outdoor lights are NOT interchangeable
Though indoor lights can be cheaper, don’t use them as a substitute for outdoor lights. Indoor lights aren’t as sealed against moisture as their outdoor counterparts, making them unsafe for wet, winter weather. If you’re not sure which type of lights you have, check the label or play it safe and buy new ones.
__ Use the correct extension cords and multipliers
Keep an eye on extension cords, as they can occasionally overheat. Just touch-test the cord. If it’s hot, unplug it.
Indoor-use extension cords aren't meant to be used in cold or wet environments.
Outdoor lights can pose a safety riskwhen extension cords are low enough to become surrounded by pools of rain, melted snow or metal objects. For outdoor use, consider adding “Twist & Seal Cord Covers and Plug Protectors” or “Extension Cord Safety Seals:”
__ Use surge protectors or a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet
Minimize damage in case of voltage fluctuation and reduce the risk of shorts and shocks.
__ Limit the number of light strands per outlet
The number of light strings you can connect together in sequence depends on both the strands’ wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the house circuit you plug them into. You may need to do a bit of math to figure out what’s safe. If you’re worried about calculating that number incorrectly, a good rule of thumb is to keep each outlet to three strands of lights or fewer. Also consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet for added protection.
__ Prevent tripping hazards, both indoors or outdoors
__ Use the right ladder
Metal ladders conduct electricity, which can lead to electrical shocks. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends using a wooden or fiberglass ladder when hanging lights to avoid electrical shocks.
__ Pay attention to your surroundings before decorating outside
Be aware of power lines and the service connection to your home. Make sure to keep yourself, ladders, and lights far away from them.
__ Securely fasten light strings, both indoors and out
Fasten indoor lights out of reach of pets and small children to avoid mishaps that could result in accidental electrocution.
Outside, always use insulated holders or plastic roof clips. Never use metal fasteners like staples, tacks or nails that could conduct electricity, generate heat or become a fire hazard if they touch the metal components of your home, such as your gutters or downspouts.
Winter storms can easily catch and blow loose outdoor Christmas light strands, causing potential electrical hazards. Fasten your lighted decorations to firm objects like trees or walls to keep your lights secure.
__ Don’t put cords through doors and windows
Don't run your extension cords through window or door cracks. The cord could become pinched, which can ruin the insulation around the wires and lead to a nasty shock.
__ Never leave your lights on unattended
Unplug tree lights and decorative outdoor lighting before leaving the house or go to bed. There are a variety of remote controls and automated timers that can easily turn your indoor and outdoor lights on and off.
__ Be careful decorating people or pets
Even if it's just for a photo, never string plug-in lights on a human or an animal -- they could get an electric shock or burn if the lights are too hot. Instead, look for battery-powered lights. They won't get hot or potentially electrocute the wearer. Plus, they come in fun shapes, like snowflakes, candy canes and gumdrops.
__ After the holidays
Sure, they're pretty, but don't leave your lights up for too long. Many lights, including smart lights, aren't meant for long-term use. Be sure to read the box or manufacturers instructions for how long you can safely leave your lights up.
Wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down after the holidays. The longer you leave them up, the sooner you’ll need to replace them.
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