Although the tree plays the most central role in the Christmas decoration tradition for most — including, presumably, Santa, given that’s where he leaves the good stuff — the very best way to bring public attention to your holiday spirit seems to be by making sure your house can be seen from space.
And for most, that’s accomplished through a soaring display of lights strung throughout the exterior of their home. Which, as you may suspect, shares many of the same basic ideas from our article on indoor safety tips for this holiday season. Making sure that each of your lights are working and properly rated for their intended use (whether indoors or out,) come to mind in particular, along with making sure they have been tested by a recognized testing laboratory. As does getting into the routine of turning the lights off when you’re going out of the house or off to bed that night.
However, there are still more risks involved with showcasing your holiday spirit to the outside world. Some of which are easy to prevent, depending on your situation, while others can be more difficult.
Light your way … to safety!
To get the hard stuff out of the way first, it is extremely important that your outdoor outlets are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting (GFCI) to prevent shorts or overloads on your lights from affecting your home and tripping your breaker.
Along these same lines, you’ll want to start out with a quality light set that carries the UL label and a minimum of 22-gauge wiring, while making sure that the lights themselves are limited to no more than three strings of incandescent lights connected together in a given grouping/plugged into a single outlet. Given the nature of, well, nature, these lights will require constant vigilance as they face many elements with which their indoor counterparts were never designed to interact, most notably snow and the oft-forgotten wearer-and-tearer of all things outdoors, wind.
Wind poses a specific problem not just in the immediate, but the long term, as wind gusts can cause a variety of unintended dismounts off your lighting rig while the constant pressure often exerted by wind during the winter plays an outsized role in the deterioration of outdoor lighting. It does so by increasing the physical interactions (and friction) that wires have with whatever nails or staples by which they may have been secured. This leads to insulation being worn away, thereby increasing the risk for short circuit fires.
Which is precisely why it’s recommended to securely fasten your outdoor lights and do so with specifically made plastic light mounting hooks and clips. Getting them up there, however, is part of the biggest challenge to safety during the entire holiday season: decorating-related falls.
This safety issue is not only the most prominent difference between indoor and outdoor Christmas decorating dangers but is perhaps the most significant preventable injury risk involved in any holiday. According to one CDC study, over 5500 folks a year find themselves in hospital emergency rooms for falls from varying heights during the holidays. The issue is so prevalent, in fact, that the CDC has adapted OSHA ladder standards for ladder safety as a guideline for holiday-related safety instruction, recommending the following:
- Ensure the ladder is on secure and level ground before climbing
- Space the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet it extends up
- Stay centered between the rails of the ladder. Do not overreach – move the ladder
- Do not stand on the top two rungs of the ladder
- To reach a roof, extend the ladder at least 3 feet beyond the edge of the roof.
- Keep the area clear around the top and bottom of the ladder
- Ensure step ladders are locked securely. Never use a folding step ladder when it is closed.
Thankfully, if you abide those safety tips and the ones mentioned early, you should be able to secure yourself a safe and spirit holiday season, while avoiding any unwanted trips to the emergency room. And that’s worth celebrating no matter what the time of year!