It’s finally holiday season—don’t spoil the Christmas spirit with preventable decoration-related injuries! Every year, hundreds of Americans hurt themselves while decking the halls, usually through electric shocks, fires, and in the case of children, choking. At Powell & Associates in Atlanta, GA, our personal injury lawyers are here to explain the dangers of holiday decorating and how you can avoid them.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, string lights cause approximately 150 fires every year. When buying holiday lights, look for a certification mark from nationally recognized laboratories like UL, CSA, or ETL; this means that the lights have been tested for safety. You should also carefully inspect the lights themselves once you open the box, checking for defects like cracks, damaged sockets, and loose or bare wires. And of course, never overload electrical outlets or link too many strings together.
If you want your house to look anything like the Griswolds’ in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you must take a number of precautions to avoid a massive electrical hazard. First of all, make sure that your holiday lights are suitable for the outdoors, as indicated by a red UL label; a green label restricts the unit to indoor use only. All of these lights should be plugged into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which reduce the risk of electric shock. You can recognize a GFCI outlet by its “test” and “reset” buttons.
Decorating outdoors also means dealing with the elements. Secure lights and cords to prevent wind damage, but never staple, nail, or otherwise fasten wires or cords because you might damage the wire or insulation, resulting in electrical shock or fire. Additionally, keep your decorations, equipment, and yourself at least 10 feet away from power lines.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments respond to an average of 210 Christmas tree-related fires each year. Most are caused by aforementioned electrical problems or putting the tree too close to a heat source, but a dry tree is also a flame risk. Make sure you buy one that’s fresh, and slice a chunk off the bottom of the trunk to help it absorb water. And if you use a fake tree, check the box to see if it’s fire-resistant.
Besides preventing fires, you should also make sure that your tree is stable—you don’t want it to fall on curious young children. Anchor your tree well and place it somewhere far from doorways to keep it from being knocked over.
Holiday decorations with small parts such as nativity figurine sets should always be displayed out of a child’s reach. In particular, flashy decorations powered by lithium “button batteries” pose a threat to children. In addition to being a choking hazard, these little, round batteries contain an electric current that reacts dangerously with saliva, the American Academy of Pediatrics found. If any of your devices don’t use screws to keep the battery compartment shut, wrap duct tape around the compartment to secure it.
If you suffered an injury from holiday decorations through no fault of your own, give Powell & Associates a call. Our Atlanta-based law firm handles personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia and beyond. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.