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Holiday Safety for Homeowners

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By Dan Steward

For many homeowners, decorating is one of the most exciting and tradition-driven parts of the holiday season. Lights, candles and other bright decorations can all be great ways to make your home look festive for the holidays, but faulty wires and open flames can quickly lead to disaster if precautions aren’t taken. There are several steps you can take to holiday-proof your house in order to prevent accidents and ensure that your family and home remain safe—and festive—all season long.

Lights and Electricity

Purchase lights and equipment from a reputable vendor and check labels for safety certification. If you’re taking old décor out of storage, inspect all lights and cords for damage before plugging them in. If a string of lights has broken bulbs or exposed wires, throw it out. Invest in a light timer or set a schedule to ensure you never leave lights on too long, and make sure to unplug everything before leaving the house or going to bed. Avoid overloading outlets or extension cords with too many plugs. Not only is this a potential fire hazard, it can cause electrical damage that could leave you with a hefty repair bill.

Trees

If you buy a real tree, be sure to keep it watered at all times. A dry tree will catch fire much faster than a well-hydrated one, and in heated rooms, trees lose water rapidly. For those who prefer artificial trees, make sure to choose one labeled “fire-resistant.” In addition, use non-flammable ornaments and tree trimmings for maximum protection.

Candles

Never leave candles unattended. Keep open flames out of the way, where small children and pets can’t knock them over. Be sure to extinguish candles before leaving the house or going to bed, and take care to ensure that wax drippings don’t damage flooring or furniture.

Outdoors

Test your home’s ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to make sure they are working properly—they are the first line of defense against electrocution. Ensure that all decorations and extension cords are designed for outdoor use and keep electric objects away from snow and water. Inspect all equipment for damage before use, and take proper safety precautions when using ladders and power tools.

Everything Else

Test all fire and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they work correctly. If a rogue candle or faulty wiring leads to a fire, you want to be alerted as soon as possible. On a similar note, prepare an emergency plan for fires or other disasters, and make sure your family and house-guests know what to do in the event that something does happen. Keep fabrics and other flammable materials a safe distance (three feet is a good rule of thumb) away from heaters and vents, and consider childproofing electrical outlets.

By following these tips and sharing them with your clients, you can ensure a happy, healthy and safe holiday for all.

Dan Steward is the President of Pillar to Post Home Inspections.

For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.

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