It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And the last thing anybody wants ruining their festive period is a house fire. A serious fire in the home is devastating at any time of year, but Christmas is magical for many and the memory of a traumatic event at this time can really leave its mark for all Christmas’s to come. Not only that, but often our house is filled with expensive gifts at this time, that once gone is really difficult to replace. So, it’s truly important that we are extra cautious with our fire safety precautions at this time of year, especially because Christmas usually brings with it additional fire hazards that aren’t present all year round. Fairy lights and overloaded plug sockets are the worst offenders at Christmas, so we need to take extra care particularly in these areas. And we must make sure that all of the smoke alarms in our homes are in good working order.
In the UK, electrical fires account for 50% of all accidental house fires. The vast majority of these are caused by appliances either being faulty or misused. Thankfully, there are lots of precautions we can take in order to minimise the risk of an electrical fire this festive season. Let’s look at what we can do to give ourselves the best chance at a jolly holly Christmas . . .
Check Christmas lights for damage
We ought to check the cables of our white goods and other electrical appliances regularly for signs of wear and tear. After you have unplugged the product, just inspect the electrical cable and wiring to see if you can see any obvious signs of erosion, or a tear in the cabling.
Christmas lights are no different. But often a safety inspection is the last thing on our minds when we’re excited to get our decorations up. Depending on how many decorations you have, it can take some time, but it’s a really important step in ensuring our decs don’t lead us to disaster. Christmas lights need to be properly maintained. Ideally, you’d have all electrical equipment, including Christmas lights, PAT tested annually. But as an absolute minimum we need to be checking the cable for signs of frayed wiring. And we ought to also check all the bulbs for cracks and if any need to be replaced, we have to make sure they are replaced with the correct type of bulb. If you see any signs of wear and tear on your Christmas lights this year, replace them – it’s simply not worth the risk. Electrical cables can be disposed of at most UK recycling centres.
If you see any sign of damage on a larger appliance, don’t use it until it can be repaired by a registered appliance repair specialist.
Don’t overload plug sockets
An overloaded plug socket, with extension leads or multi plugs, is one of the most common causes of an electrical fire. We’re more likely to use them at Christmas, because it allows us to use several devices at a time and we’ve just got more to plug in! The wall socket can easily become overloaded, which can spark an electrical fire.
To avoid this, we should only use wall plugs and extension cords when it’s absolutely necessary. Plugging multiple extension cords into one another should be avoided at all costs as this greatly increases the risk of an electrical fire.
Try your best to have a ‘one device per socket’ rule. And if you’re unsure, an electrical safety first socket overload calculator can be used online to work out which electrical products are able to be safely plugged in together.
Don’t skimp on charging cables
One in five UK shoppers give electrical gifts at Christmas, so if you are lucky enough to find one waiting for you under the tree – make sure you always use the charging cable that is provided by the manufacturer. If this charging cable becomes lost or damaged, make sure you buy the recommended replacement from the manufacturer and not a cheap copy.
A cheap charging cable for your device that has not been produced by either the manufacturer or by a recommended supplier can seem like a bargain. But just a few extra pounds spent on a charging cable produced or approved by the manufacturer of any device that contains a rechargeable lithium battery is the smartest choice.
Imitation chargers often put more than the recommended charge into a device, which has the potential to affect the battery and also to cause a fire.
Switch off decorations at night
Most of us love fairy lights and other light up decorations at Christmas, for making the atmosphere really festive and magical. But when we’re in our beds asleep, they’re not necessary and, like all electrical appliances, they should be switched off at night. It’s sometimes easy to fall asleep with them on, but it’s so important that we do everything we can not forget to switch them off.
And it’s not just Christmas lights. Leaving your laptop charging or running the washing machine at night also has fire creating potential. We ought to unplug all electrical appliances before we sleep, because if there’s a problem in the night we’ll be less able to respond promptly in our sleep.
We hope that our top tips for avoiding an electrical fire this Christmas help you to keep safe this year. We wish you a wonderful festive season. Please do reach out if you have any concerns about your fire and safety needs.
From all of us at Swift Fire and Safety.