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There are days I hate my brain. I see something and wonder “why?”. That darn question will stick with me like poop on a boot until one day I get sick of the thought rattling around and I look for the answer.

I was talking with an electrician friend of mine a couple of days ago and he reminded me that every year people die because of Christmas decorations. Not usually from the decorations themselves, but from electrical hazards created by putting the decorations up. Any time you’re doing something with electricity, it pays to be careful and know the basics of electrical safety.

So here, in no particular order, are some safety suggestions, courtesy of my electrician friend, John Kuehnl-Cadwell, of Datawise Solutions.*

Know Thy Extension Cord and Use It Properly

Did you know there are extension cords rated ONLY for indoor use? I didn’t either. Apparently cords have ratings. Who knew?

You shouldn’t use an indoor cord for outdoor purposes, but you CAN use an OUTDOOR cord for indoor purposes. Outdoor cords are hardier creatures, I suppose. Better insulation, thicker wire, yada yada.

Keep the Plug Dry

I figured this was common sense, but every year it seems plugs wind up in melting snow and ice, get wet, and cause problems. There are some nifty DIY solutions to this involving Tupperware-type containers, and you can also buy cord junction covers that help keep snow and water out of your electrical connections.

Use the Shortest Cord Possible

Apparently the best extension cord is NO extension cord. If you’re plugging in Christmas lights, it’s best to plug them directly into an outlet. Ideally Christmas lights and other decorations would be plugged into a GFI/GFCI (Ground Fault Interrupter / Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter – same thing) to avoid unpleasant electrical shocks. For those who get really excited about Christmas decorations, you can have dedicated outdoor outlets installed just for Christmas lights, usually placed in the soffit, and there are now permanent decoration light options available.

Animals Who Love Cords Can Kill You

I have a cat named Flizst. He LOVES chewing on wires. Apparently he’s not the only pet who does this, but these little monsters could cause your house to burn down. Even if they don’t cause you to lose your family home, your beloved dog or cat could very well be electrocuted and suffer all manner of harm by chewing on wires.

Christmas is like – well, Christmas – to pets who love to chew electrical cords because there are usually so many more cords around for decorations. Pet owners: be very mindful of their pet’s proclivity towards chewing cords and make sure you take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of your pet, as well as your human family.

Kids Love Lights – to Death

Things that sparkle and shine are kid magnets. A beautifully-decorated Christmas tree fills children’s eyes with wonder. As in, “I wonder what will happen if I climb this?” Every year there are children visiting hospital emergency rooms because of injuries caused by lights and other Christmas decorations. Strangulation from wires, puncture wounds from falling decorations or falling indoor trees, if you can think of it, it’s probably happened. And of course, children (and adults) can be electrocuted from Christmas lights. If something electrical has been loved for generations, it might be time to start some new traditions.

Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year. If you’re the type who enjoys it, then enjoy it safely. I hope you find these tips useful. If you have any electrical questions, best call an experienced Master Electrician who can give you proper advice.

Have a safe holiday, everyone!

* Full Disclosure: I am a partner in Datawise Solutions. That’s why I have electrician friends. I have heard that most electricians do not, in fact, have friends, so I consider myself lucky 😉