Stay bright when hanging holiday lights

Shawn Miller was hanging Christmas lights at his mother’s home, decorating the trees that lined her front yard. As Shawn tossed lights up into the trees, one of the strings hit an overhead power line, sending voltage down into his body. Miller lost his left hand and suffered other serious injuries in the accident.

Today, he shares his story and speaks out on behalf of the Energy Education Council, a nonprofit dedicated to electrical safety. Follow these key safety tips for hanging your holiday lights this season:

  1. Use only lights that are intended for outdoor use. And use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) extension cord. GFCIs cut off power instantly, saving you from shock if an electrical problem occurs.
  2. Wait for a calm, dry day to hang your lights. It’s too hazardous to be on a ladder during wind, rain, or snow. 
  3. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that no more than three strands be hooked together unless the directions indicate otherwise. Be careful not to overload extension cords and power strips either.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings and stay clear of overhead power lines.
  5. Don’t staple through cords. This can damage the internal insulation and lead to fires. Use zip ties or specially designed light clips.
  6. Consider alternatives to hanging holiday lights, such as lawn d├ęcor, lights in low-level shrubbery, or color-changing flood lights. 
  7. Holiday lights aren’t designed for year-round exposure. Bring them indoors when the season is over.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in November and December each year, more than 15,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday decorating. Stay safe so you can enjoy all that the holidays have to offer.

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