Stay safe this holiday season, and save energy too

Talk to the family about staying safe, and please be careful with that ladder

The winter holiday season is a time of celebration and decoration. You can make sure the festivities are also safe by taking a few precautions.

Keeping the kids safe

You've been teaching your children to be cautious and follow the safety rules, but during the excitement of the holidays it's easy for them to forget.

There are so many new — and shiny — things in the household during festive seasons. Curious kids need to be reminded that:

  • They shouldn't ever pull on electrical cords.
  • Wall outlets and other sockets are not to be touched, and are certainly not for poking objects or fingers into.
  • They should keep away from outdoor decorations and lights.
  • If they see an electrical cable that has dropped down, or come unplugged, they shouldn't touch anything. Instead, they should immediately notify an adult.

Your kids already know that it's important to play safe around electricity. A few suggestions from you about what to watch out for during the holiday is all the reinforcement they need.

Keeping everyone safe indoors

In addition to following the basic home electrical safety suggestions, take care not to overload outlets or circuits.

Use certified power bars if you want to plug multiple items into one socket. And there should be no more than 1400 Watts on a circuit.

Use energy efficient LED holiday lights in your decorating plans. LED lights use less electricity and don't create heat when they're on, so they reduce the risk of fire. And make sure you turn off any lights when you leave the house or go to bed at night.

Holiday tree safety tips

Many people enjoy bringing a tree into their homes. Whether they're artificial or real, keep them at least three feet away from heat sources such as vents and fireplaces. And when you're choosing a location for your tree, don't have it too far from an outlet.

If you need to use an extension cord, use one that is only as long as you need. As long as it's away from any baseboard heater, you can tape the extension cord to the wall and the baseboard to avoid tripping hazards.

And if you have a real tree, remember to water it often. A dry tree can be a serious fire hazard.

Ladders, lights and outdoor safety

When using ladders [ PDF, 811 KB] to hang decorations and lights, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Ladders should be one metre out from the wall for every four metres up and they should only be placed against stable surfaces. It's also a good idea to have someone hold the ladder to keep it from moving while you climb.

Don't install lights that are turned on, either. Test the lights to make sure they are operating normally, then turn the power off to hang them up. Use extension cords sparingly, use the proper length, and make sure you've got a properly insulated cable designed for outdoor.

When it comes to lights, only use those that are designed for outdoor conditions. Packages are clearly marked, so look carefully.

LED holiday lights are best because they reduce energy use — by as much as 90 per cent — and they are less of a fire risk.

Timers or photocells make it easy to automate the control of lights so they can be turned off late at night and when you're away from the house.

Other safety tips for outdoor holiday lights include checking the insulation on extension cords and keeping electrical connections off the ground and away from water.

Winter storms, winter vacations

Winter storms are common in B.C., so remember to be prepared for power outages and if you see a power line that's fallen down, keep back at least 10 metres and call 911. And if you're leaving your home on a winter vacation, shutting stuff off is a great way to prevent potential accidents and will save electricity. Which saves you money, too.