For the past two years, Halloween generated more than $10 billion on costumes, candy and, of course, decorations, according to the National Retail Federation. As more and more people embrace the spooky season with elaborate lighting displays, they must also be aware of potential electrical dangers that could cause quite a fright.
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, they can create added dangers of fire, shock and other potentially disastrous accidents. Safe Electricity urges everyone to use caution and look for potential hazards while decorating and operating these displays.
Oftentimes, Halloween decorations have been packed away in basements, attics, garages or sheds since last year. Weather, time and even mice can damage cords and insulation on electric decorations, making them unsafe.
Before decorating begins, Safe Electricity offers the following safety tips.
With any newly purchased electronic decoration, be sure to follow the use and care instructions that accompany it. In addition, before you use 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 is marked for outdoor use.
Carefully inspect used electrical decorations. Cracking, fraying or bare wires may cause a serious shock or start a fire. Replace any damaged products.
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. In addition, keep electrical cords out of walkway areas to avoid a tripping hazard.
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 of 10 feet away from overhead power lines. When securing light strands, never staple or nail them into place. This could damage the product.
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.
Once your home is decorated and ready for Halloween, always remember to turn them off before leaving home or going to sleep. A timer can help you do this. Avoid real scares this Halloween and find more electrical safety tips at SafeElectricity.org.