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'Tis the season to be safe

December 22, 2005

Holiday decorations give your home just the right festive touch, but they also pose a fire hazard.

"Unless you deck your tree, halls and walls safely, the season could be memorable for the wrong reasons," said John Drengenberg, manager of consumer affairs at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., a not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization.

Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Christmas trees are involved in about 360 fires annually, resulting in 15 deaths, 44 injuries and an average of more than $16.4 million in property damage.

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"The leading factor in fires involving Christmas trees, both live and artificial, is placement too close to a heat source," said Judy Comoletti, assistant vice president for public education at the National Fire Protection Association.

UL and the NFPA offer the following safety tips when decorating for the holidays:

* Check your tree for fresh, green needles. Trees that have dried out over several weeks pose a greater fire hazard.

* Keep your tree watered at all times. The tree stand should hold at least 1 gallon of water.

* If you purchase an artificial tree, choose one that is flame-retardant.

* Keep your tree at least 3 feet from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other sources of heat; don't place the tree where it blocks an exit.

* Use lights and decorations that bear the UL mark, which means samples of the product have been tested for safety. Light strings with UL's green holographic label are for indoor use only; lights with UL's red holographic label are for either indoor or outdoor use.

* Inspect every electrical decoration before plugging it in. Cracked sockets; frayed, loose or bare wires; and loose connections may cause electric shock or start a fire.

* Check your light strings and packaging to

determine the maximum number of strings that may be strung together.

* Don't hang lights with staples or nails that can damage the cord's wire insulation. Use plastic hooks designed for hanging light strings.

* Keep your Christmas tree no longer than four weeks and take down holiday lights after 90 days of use.

-- NUI

20051222KV1M2V74(LA)20051222KV1M2V73(LA)

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