When Ralphie Parker’s dad attempts to plug his glorious but tragically fra-gee-lee “Italian” leg lamp into an overloaded wall outlet in the holiday movie classic “A Christmas Story,” there first came a “snap of a few sparks” and the “whiff of ozone” before the lamp blazed forth in the front window.
While that’s a funny movie scene, those at Marshall County REMC want to remind folks that overloaded circuits and sparks are never funny, especially this time of year.
In the rush of decorating, shopping, cooking, entertaining and attending extracurricular activities, it might be tempting to short change safety measures you’d never think of doing any other time of year. But don’t.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, one of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. And though not common, Christmas tree fires are more serious than typical home fires. One of every 31 reported Christmas tree fires results in a death. On average, just one in 144 typical home fires do.
Here are some things to keep in mind when decorating your home for the holidays:
- If you decorate with a real tree, make sure it’s fresh. Needles should not be dropping or coming off easily. Try this: Take hold of a branch between your thumb and forefinger about 6 inches from the tip. Pull your hand toward you, allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Needles should not come off.
- When you get your tree home, cut a few inches off the bottom of the stem and immediately place the tree in water, even if you do not yet intend to decorate it.
- Make sure you keep your tree watered daily throughout the holiday.
- Decorate your tree with new LED lights. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs or tiny lights, LEDs do not get hot. They also use 75 to 90 percent less electricity for the same amount of light and come in a wide range of sizes, colors and multiple lighting patterns.
- With any light set, carefully inspect each light and the cord. Cracked and loose bulbs and frayed or bare wires can shock or start a fire.
- Do not mount or string light strands in ways that might damage the cord’s protective covering, such as with nails or staples.
- Make sure all decorations, especially those used outside, are plugged into an outlet protected with a ground-fault circuit interrupter.
- Always unplug your indoor holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed. Have your outdoor lights on a timer to save energy and reduce the risk of fire.
Obviously, Ralphie made it to adulthood to look back warmly on that Christmas he got a BB gun in “A Christmas Story.” And even though he almost shot his eye out and the neighbor’s hounds ate their turkey, at least the Parkers were not displaced, or something worse, by the old man’s overloaded outlets.