Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director of Place, urges people to check their tree lights and festive decorations are safe to avoid a shocking Christmas.
The John Lewis advert is out and the Frankfurt Christmas Market is now open – it would appear Christmas is just around the corner.
So, with just six weeks to go, now is a good time to check the lights will twinkle brightly, rather than blow out when they’re plugged in. Christmas is an expensive time of year, so it can be tempting to cut corners to save money, but please do not put a price on your family and your home’s safety.
Accidental fires in the home are often caused by electricity, with firefighters called to more electrical fires during the winter, so Birmingham Trading Standards are asking people not to take any chances with their Christmas lighting, decorations or trees.
Whether lighting up your house or trees in your garden, as well as the Christmas tree inside your home, check all fairy lights or illuminations are working properly and suitable for outdoor use.
Outdoor lights should be certified for use outside and fastened securely to trees, walls or other strong supports to prevent wind damage, using insulated staples not nails or tacks. Be sure to plug them into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid any potential shocks.
Lights that are old, damaged or plugged into overloaded adaptors or extension leads can cause electric shock or fire. If you’re unsure whether lights are safe to use, it may be best to invest in new ones: you can’t put a price on a life.
If using new lights for the first time, check they are dry and don’t change bulbs when the chain of lights is still plugged in.
Check all lights, particularly older sets, have been tested to a recognised standard: all electrical goods should be CE marked to show that they comply with European safety regulations. Also look out for broken or cracked sockets and bulbs, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections: if lights are damaged in any way throw them out.
Never plug more than three sets of lights into a single extension cord but if decorating a metallic tree, don’t use electric lights as it may become charged, so anyone who touches its branches could be electrocuted.
Candles are also popular decorations but should never be left burning unattended. Be sure to blow these out and switch off fairy lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
Christmas trees – whether real or fake – should be placed away from fireplaces and radiators to avoid a possible fire hazard and to stop fir trees from drying out. Check artificial trees are fire resistant: these will resist burning if ignited and therefore extinguish quickly. Make sure any decorations, such as tinsel, are flame-resistant and non-combustible and avoid any sharp or breakable baubles that could pose a safety risk to young children.
Many people will receive electrical presents that require chargers, so make sure any such gifts and necessary accessories are bought from reputable traders. Be wary of cheap imitations available on auction websites, as these may be unsafe and imported from the Far East.
Finally, in case of an emergency, make sure you know where your fuse box is so you can reach it quickly.