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Electrical safety tips for the holidays

December 6, 2022

More fires and fire-related deaths occur over the holidays than at any other time of year.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, most blazes occur between Dec. 15 to Dec. 31.

But, if you’re like many people, your lights and decorations go up early. Whether it’s because you’re trying to beat the cold or want to enjoy your decorations longer, safety still matters.

The Electrical Safety Authority, which regulates and promotes electrical safety in Ontario, has tips for homeowners regardless of when they decide to get their house in the holiday spirit.

With online shopping growing in popularity, ESA advises people to be extra diligent when buying.

Make sure lights certified

One critical practice is to look for a recognized certification mark on your holiday decorations. Why? This proves the product has been tested and meets safety standards here. The Government of Canada also warns that counterfeit electrical products can be dangerous. Some signs a product may be fake include poor quality, unusually low price, and spelling or grammar errors on the product and packaging.

In addition, ESA also offers these tips to help homeowners get ahead of potential electrical dangers that can cause fires. It protects not only your home but your neighbours too!

  • Remember holiday decorations aren’t designed for year-round use and can deteriorate over time. Be sure to take them down when the holidays are over.
  • Three is the magic number: In most cases, no more than three light strings can be safely connected. Overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire. Read the manufacturers' instructions for directions.
  • Remember to use the correct clips for securing lights and decorations. Staples and nails can damage electrical cords and can cause injury if tangled up in them.
  • Inspect all cords, plugs and ornaments for damage and fraying. Otherwise, you can get a nasty shock.
  • Lights and extension cords are rated for indoor or outdoor use. Read the package instructions, and never exceed the recommended wattage.
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) when plugging in outdoors. Check all cords to ensure they have a good connection, and that any plug-in ends don’t get buried in snow.
  • Make sure you look up and look out for overhead powerlines before setting up your ladder or using high-reach tools such as extension poles to hang outdoor lights and decorations. You don't have to make direct contact with a powerline to receive a shock. Electricity can jump or arc to you or your tools, so stay at least 3 metres back.
  • Consider using LED lighting. They produce very little heat, which reduces the risk of fire.
  • Turn off the holiday lights when you leave the house or go to bed.

If you suspect something wrong or unsafe with your seasonal electrical consumer product, you should immediately stop using it and contact Health Canada Consumer Products.


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