This is the Time to Put Holiday Decorations Away Safely

The first week of January is the suggested time to remove them, but do it smartly and safely.

January 02, 2014 | By Paul Netter

Perhaps families are reveling in the sight of their holiday decorations or they’re simply too busy to remove them, but those decorations should come down now during the first week of January, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

Don Neal, Southern California Edison (SCE) director of Corporate Environmental Health and Safety, agrees, saying that keeping outdoor electrical decorations up too long unnecessarily exposes them to the elements, which could decrease their shelf life and increase the risk of electrical hazards.

“The sun (UV rays) and temperature changes are not kind to the lights’ wire insulation, so leaving them up too long will increase the potential of worn insulation,” said Neal.

Families should also be just as careful taking down decorations as they were putting them up, still staying at least 10 feet from power lines when removing outside decorations. Fiberglass or wooden ladders in good working order should be used, since metal ladders conduct electricity.

Each year about 5,800 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, with more than half of them coming from ladders or roofs, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Christmas tree removal should get priority too since they dry out with time and become increasingly flammable, especially when adorned with lights. Dried trees should not be kept in the garage or placed outside against the home. Find a recycling program in your neighborhood where you can safely dispose of the trees.

“Anything with heat, like lights, could ignite a dry Christmas tree, which is quite combustible,” said Neal.

In fact, Christmas tree fires are more likely after Christmas than before, the fire association said. Christmas trees (15 percent), wire or cable insulation (13 percent) and decorations (11 percent) are the leading items first ignited in holiday home-structure fires.

Before storing holiday lights, it is important to inspect the wiring and get rid of any that are cracked, frayed or appear to have damaged insulation.

Bill Messner, SCE’s principal manager of Health and Safety, is a stickler for getting rid of damaged lighting the right way.

“If defects are found, dispose of the lights properly, using the manufacturer’s instructions,” he said. “Also cut the strings of lights before disposing of them to prevent others from using them.”

Finally, families should add one often-overlooked item to their to-do list by sending warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers so they can be notified promptly if there is a product recall.

“By planning now, you are setting you and your family up to have a wonderful holiday next year,” said Messner.

Topics: Safety