ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Standards Light the Way for Safety this Holiday Season

New York, Dec 11, 2009

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL), two members and audited designators of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), have teamed to urge consumers to keep safety in mind this year when decorating for the holiday season.

Codes and standards can help to assure the safety of common decorations that illuminate neighborhoods across the nation. NFPA 70-2008, the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC), addresses the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment to be used both indoors and outdoors, such as strings of lights that outline a house or drape over a pine tree. Article 590 of the NEC covers the safe installation of temporary wiring and equipment and specifically addresses holiday lighting strings in section 590.5. That section requires holiday lighting strings to be UL listed and in annex A of the NEC, reference is made to UL 588 (Ed. 18), Standard for Seasonal and Holiday Decorative Products, as the standard that is applicable to this type of equipment. Section 590.3(C) of the same article specifies that temporary electric power and lighting installation in holiday decorations should be limited to 90 days of use in order to assure user safety.

NFPA and UL emphasize that consumers should closely examine decorations before installation for cracked sockets and frayed or exposed wires. These may pose a fire or shock hazard and should be replaced.

When purchasing strings of lights for decorating, it’s important to choose the appropriate products depending on where they will be hung. Indoor-use-only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label; indoor-or-outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label. Click here for more information on UL’s holographic labels.

When it comes to indoor decorations, NFPA and UL urge families to water Christmas trees often so that they do not become dried out. “If the needles are not fresh, there is a greater risk of fire,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications, NFPA. “While Christmas tree fires are rare, a person dies in one of every 18 reported, so it’s clear they can be deadly.” Trees should stand in at least a gallon of water, and moisture levels should be checked daily.

Candles used for menorahs and other decorative purposes should be closely monitored as well. They should be placed out of reach of children and pets, and should never be left alone while lit.

Two reports released by the NFPA provide more information on fires caused by holiday lights, candles, and other decorations: Home Christmas Tree and Holiday Light Fires and Home Structure Fires that Began with Decorations. These reports are freely available for download on NFPA’s site.

With diligence, care, and the help of standards, Americans can rest assured that their family will avoid the dangers of holiday decorations this season. For more information, see this NFPA/UL news release.

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