This weekend is likely to see many households decorating their home ready for Christmas. It is also at this time of year when I receive increased numbers of calls regarding problems with electrics with householders taking risks with electricity that they wouldn't normally take.
A mix of risk taking and being off guard in general over Christmas means the likelihood of an electrical fault developing and in turn causing a fire in far higher than at any other time of year. In fact, you are more likely to die in a house fire in December than at any other time of year.
Fire can engulf a room in less than 1 minute
Unsurprisingly, Christmas decorations simply add fuel to the fire – quite literally. Paper chains, Christmas cards, decorations and Christmas trees can feed an already dangerous fire.
The video below is an example from the Fire service showing how quickly a fire can engulf the room. Notice also how quickly the room is filled with toxic smoke, I hope it makes you think twice about your choice of decorations this year.
Never leave Christmas lights on unattended or overnight
Imagine that a fire like that started in your house. You could be in the kitchen and not even realise. However the good news is that there are many things you can do to prevent a devastating fire like that occurring in your home this Christmas.
As an electrician in Birmingham, I have seen countless times Christmas lights left on overnight and during the day whilst the householders are at work. Tree lights do look great and it is nice to show them off, however always ensure you are nearby. Fire can break out without warning.
Always ensure all Christmas lights, both inside and outside are switched off overnight and when you are out and about. Some people use timers to ensure their lights switch off automatically by a set time, this is a great idea as it is easy to forget to switch them off.
Ensure your property has a smoke alarm
Before you start decorating, ensure you have a smoke alarm fitted and make sure it works by testing it. Working smoke alarms will alert you to a potential fire as it will detect fumes before you are even aware of a problem.
Never leave fire safety to chance, smoke alarms can be obtained at low cost and often freely from your local fire safety office.
Are your Christmas lights safe to use?
If you are finding yourself unknotting twisted tree lights from a carrier bag then there is a fair chance that damage may have occurred to the delicate wiring and cables. This can cause over heating and fire.
The best way to store tree lights is in their original packaging.
How old are your tree lights? Modern LED lights do not create heat, so are a far safer option to use and are far more energy efficient. All Christmas lights sold nowadays are LED so if you are using old style lights where you change your own bulbs, it is time for an upgrade.
Never attempt to repair tree lights yourself using insulation tape or attempting to join more than one set of Christmas lights together. This is dangerous and you will be at risk of electrical injury and fire. LED lights will need to be replaced if bulbs are not working.
Always inspect Christmas lights for damage before use particularly the wiring and plug. Make sure no bare wiring is visible and the plug is firmly in position.
Never use lighting outdoors that is not suitable for use outdoors. The packaging for the lights will clearly state if the lighting is suitable for outdoor use. Never guess or take chances.
Take care with your decorations!
Badly placed or old decorations can cause additional problems if a fire did break out. Old decorations that are not fire resistant can make an electrical fire worse. Invest in flame resistant decorations and banish those old relics to the bin!
Ensure that trees and decorations are not placed near to sources of heat such as portable electric heaters and open fires. As heat from these sources could cause ignition.
Is your home electrically ready for Christmas
Over use of extension leads and extension leads plugged into other extension leads is commonplace in homes over Christmas. However these types of electrical dangers are placing huge strain on your sockets and this can lead to fire and overheating.
It is not too late to ensure the electrical safety of your home before Christmas. Contact your local qualified and registered electrician for advice.