Directorate of Communication and Public Affairs
U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center
Deck the halls! Yes, it’s that time of year again.
While Christmas decorations have adorned store shelves since September in many places, some people are just now putting up their holiday decor. But as innocent as decorating sounds, there are hazards associated with this seasonal activity.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical failures or malfunctions were present in one-third of home Christmas tree fires occurring between 2006 and 2010. Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated 160 home structure fires each year. These fires caused an average of nine deaths, 13 injuries and $9 million in property damage annually.
"As folks dust off their holiday lights, they need to do a thorough safety check of their decorations," said Brett Atwell, assistant chief, Directorate of Emergency Services, U.S. Army Garrison-Redstone Arsenal. "Most home fires are preventable; something as simple as a holiday safety checklist could save a life."
Atwell said nfpa.org provides home and holiday safety checklists, as well as other fire prevention resources.
"People need to protect their property and the well being of their families," he said. "Instead of being complacent in the one place we feel most comfortable and secure, folks need to have pride of ownership in their personal safety and take precautions before tragedy strikes."
NFPA reports that structure fires due to mishaps with holiday and decorative lighting increase an average of 45 percent in December, versus 12 percent in January.
While several holiday lighting options are available to consumers, light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, may be an attractive alternative to traditional lights.
"LED lights use about seven times less energy than a standard incandescent bulb," Atwell said. "This correlates to lower wattage output, which in turn means less power consumption and heat creation."
Preparation and education are vital in fire prevention, and Atwell said safety should not be a seasonal concern.
"We offer fire prevention training classes, conduct fire inspections and reach out to the Redstone Arsenal community in an effort to educate people on the hazards associated with fires," Atwell said. "Our effort is year round, and that should be the case for everyone. It’s a team effort and Soldiers, Family members and co-workers need to be engaged because lives depend on it."