QUAYS News reporter Anna Georgieva looks into the dangers of Christmas decorations and how to stay safe during the festive period.
When the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ comes, we all start thinking about presents for our loved ones, holiday plans and ways to make our home more festive. As jolly as the Christmas season can be, it also brings a great deal of risk when decorating becomes more about appearance than safety. According to a recent study, millions of British homes are at risk of fires and electrical issues due to irresponsible decorating and lack of information on how to avoid risks.
A recent study, done by the UK’s leading regulatory body for electricians NICEIC and ELECSA, revealed that over 19 million homes are at risk of accidents this holiday season. After surveying 2,000 UK tenants and homeowners, the study found that while nearly everyone puts up some kind of decorations in their home, 42% of the participants in the study pay more attention to aesthetics than safety. Competition over festive home looks with neighbours is part of the problem, with 1 in 5 people admitting they aim for the best house look.
During the holiday season, meant to be a time of joy and happiness, lack of electrical safety could lead to devastating consequences for some. Thinking all about the visual effects, Brits often forget about the risks lights could bring to their home, in some cases leading to fatal accidents. People are advised to think safety first and check their homes at least once a year by a certified electrician. However, the recent study found that nearly half of the participants have never had their house checked or cannot remember the last time. To make things worse, over 50% use old Christmas lights without checking them. Inevitably, the increase in decorative lights require the use of multiple sockets and extension leads, yet less than 3% are concerned about the risk it could pose on their families. Faulty electrics and not being cautious enough are the cause of 20,000 house fires each year, causing upwards of 70 fatalities.
Tony Cable, Senior Electrical Engineer for NICEIC and ELECSA, says: “Electrical safety in the home is important at any time of the year, but at Christmas we tend to forget that all the decorative lights we use around the home massively increase the dangers to our family.”
A must-have for the holiday season, the Christmas tree could be one of the decorations of most risk to British homes. Christmas tree fires are more likely to spread quickly due to how easy it is for the tree to catch on fire. While any tree could be a risk to your home, natural trees are more likely to be a hazard. This is particularly true if they dry out and are not kept moist during the festive period. The cause of a fire, in most cases, are electrical failures or malfunctions that ignite the tree. However, little things like decorative lights, candles and heat sources too close to the tree are also not to ignore. Using old lights, not checking for cracks or bare wires and leaving candles and lights unattended for long periods of time cause a large number of home accidents every year.
As well as the home’s electrics, owners of a fireplace are advised to have a professional chimney sweep annually. Regular checks on your home and the right maintenance could lower the risk of a fire and make your holidays safer.
As obvious as it may sound, simple steps that anyone could follow are the way to stay safe at Christmas. Avoid letting your tree dry out or, if you have gone for an artificial one, make sure it is fire resistant. Having a few things in mind when buying a fresh tree can be an easy way to avoid risks. A fresh tree’s needles are hard to pull out and do not break when bent between your fingers. Once put in the house, the tree needs to be away from any heat sources and away from doors or potential fire exits.
Fire departments and electricians advise that lights and any electric decorations are checked by someone with the relevant qualifications. As obvious as it may seem, garden decorations must be done specifically with outdoor lights, certified for external use. A lot of people are tempted to keep lights on for 24 hours, overnight or, even worse, leave them on when they go out. . All Christmas lights increase the risk of fire and overloading and should only be switched on whilst people are actually at home. A common mistake is also saving on calling an electrician and re-wiring Christmas lights yourself. As much of a difference and better look it gives to the decorations, including more than one set of lights into a single plug is dangerous and causes a potential fire risk.
By: Anna Georgieva