More and more people decorate their yards for Halloween with elaborate lighting displays with as much enthusiasm and as many materials as they do for the Christmas holidays. Strings of decorative lights, fog machines, strobe and black lights, animatronics, and electrically powered decorations all add to the ambiance of Halloween, but improperly used, can create added dangers of fire, shock, and other potentially disastrous accidents.
Your local electric cooperative and Safe Electricity urges everyone to use caution and look for potential hazards while decorating and operating these displays.
“These decorations have been packed away since last year in basements, garages and sheds,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Safe Electricity program. “Weather, time and even mice can damage cords and insulation on electric decorations, making them unsafe. Make sure you discard any damaged sets and buy new.”
Follow these tips:
- Carefully inspect each electrical decoration. Cracking, fraying, or bare wires may cause a serious shock or start a fire. Replace any damaged products.
- Before using any light strings, animated displays, or other electrical products outdoors, make sure the product is approved by a nationally recognized certification organization such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and marked for outdoor use.
- Follow the use and care instructions that accompany your electrical decorations.
- Don’t overload extension cords or allow them to run through water on the ground. Typically, one extension cord should only have three strands of lights connected to it at most, but you should also check that the extension cord is rated for its intended use.
- Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into outlets protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). If your outdoor outlets don’t have them, either contact a qualified electrician to install them or use portable GFCIs instead.
- When decorating outside, always be sure to look up and double check that you and any equipment, such as a ladder or a light strand, are a minimum 10 feet away from overhead power lines. When securing light strands, never staple or nail them into place. This could damage the product.
- Keep electrical cords out of walkway areas to avoid causing a tripping hazard.
- Lastly, turn off all electrical light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to sleep. A timer can help you do this.
Avoid real scares this Halloween, and decorate safely. Get more safety tips at SafeElectricity.org.