Town Talk: Tips for a safe holiday season

For a lot of people, the holiday season is one of the most cherished and anticipated times of the year. Families and friends come together to celebrate annual traditions and pass them along to the next generation. With all of this excitement however, many end up neglecting safety.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, roughly 860 home fires are caused by holiday decorations every year, with an additional 210 annual home fires caused by Christmas trees alone. Here are some safety tips for you to follow this holiday season.

Please keep away from powerlines when hanging outdoor decorations.

Make sure that you always use circuits that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) when installing decorations outside.

Never use indoor rated extension cords outdoors and make sure that you don’t put them where water can get at them.

Inspect your decorations carefully before using them. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a shock or start a fire.

Once you get the decorations in place and you reach into the deep abyss of your junk drawer for your extension cords, what should you be thinking? Besides the thought that it’s time to clean out that junk drawer, you should be thinking about the condition of those extension cords. Make sure they don’t have any signs of wear like cracking or fraying. Another thing to look at is the plug prongs and the slots. Do they match? Never try to plug a three prong cord into a two slotted outlet. Avoid cutting or breaking off the bottom lone prong of a three prong plug so it fits into a two prong receptacle. This could create a shock hazard. Always make sure that connections are plugged all the way in and only use extension cords that are certified by an independent testing laboratory. Always avoid stringing extension cords together and do not put them under a rug or where they become a trip hazard.

Besides trimming the house with too many decorations, overloading electrical outlets with too many lights or devices can cause a fire. Older homes were not wired to keep up with today’s needs. When deciding where to put your Christmas tree and other decorations, always keep them away from heat sources and open flames. One more good idea is to always turn off your indoor and outdoor lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house. New Ulm Public Utilities wishes you a happy and safe holiday season.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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