December 2008 (Palm Springs, Calif.) — Electrical problems and malfunctions cause nearly half of all Christmas tree fires according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). The majority of these fires can be prevented by inspecting your lights for broken sockets or frayed wires before putting them up and making sure you are using them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) members report numerous electrical defects found during routine inspections and warn consumers that holiday decorations can pose an additional hazard this time of the year. Overloaded circuits and outlets, hazardous extension cord usage and damaged light strings or bulbs are potential problems that can lead to electrical shock, fire, injury and death.
Extension cords: Improper extension cord usage is one of the most common electrical hazards during the holiday. Always use extension cords as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect extension cords for wear or damage before use. Never run extension cords across walkways, or under rugs and furniture. Always use the right wire size extension cord or larger. For additional safety, use only heavy duty cords, particularly where long runs are used or multiple strings of lights are connected together. Avoid connecting multiple extension cords together.
Overloaded outlets or circuits: Use a power strip with an on/off switch if plugging several items into one outlet. Be aware of which circuit breaker each outlet corresponds to in your electrical panel and spread the load over multiple circuits to avoid tripping a breaker. If you trip a breaker when using your decorations, that could indicate an overloaded circuit or other serious problem. You should call a licensed electrical contractor to troubleshoot and correct the problem.
Lights left on: Remember to unplug the decorations when leaving the house or going to sleep. Do NOT leave them on overnight or when no one is home. Leaving lights on constantly is dangerous.
Smoke alarms: Check that your smoke alarms are working and that the batteries are fresh.
Consider having a CREIA member inspect your home now, especially if your home is more than 30 years old. Finding and correcting problems with the building’s electrical system and other major components before it is subjected to the extra stress that comes this time of the year can prevent dangerous incidents and protect your family and investment.
CREIA requires its members to successfully pass a comprehensive written examination of property systems and complete 30 hours of continuing education each year. Members can accumulate credits through various sources of education including monthly chapter meetings, conferences, and other approved activities. CREIA keeps records to ensure that members are complying with the requirements. Educational topics cover a variety of technical subjects including updates and advances affecting the profession of real estate inspection.
CREIA is dedicated to consumer protection and education. To locate a qualified CREIA inspector near you click here or call CREIA at (800) 388-8443.
For the CREIA Press Release Archives click here.