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K-State Today

November 18, 2015

Holiday decoration safety

Submitted by Fire Safety

With the upcoming holiday season it is important to remember a few fire safety regulations, policies and other important information.

The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that Christmas trees, both natural and artificial, were the item first ignited in approximately 920 reported home structure fires from 2007–2011. These fires caused 24 civilian deaths, 88 civilian injuries and $73.2 million in direct property damage.

During the same period, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 600 home structure fires. These fires caused approximately 36 civilian deaths, 64 civilian injuries and $33.6 million in direct property damage.

There are a few fire safety rules in effect at Kansas State University that you'll need to be aware of when decorating. Let's have a safe and happy holiday season by remembering the following fire safety tips.

  • Candles, incense, incense burners and any other item that produce an open flame are not permitted at the university. Flameless candles and electric scent pots are permitted. Scent pots should be turned off when unattended.
  • When decorating corridor walls, you may not cover more than 20 percent of the surfaces with combustible materials.
  • Do not place holiday decorations where they may block emergency egress — stairways, corridors, near doors, etc. — exit signs, emergency lights or fire alarm devices.
  • Use only flame retardant decorations.
  • Avoid using extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, use a heavy gauge, grounded cord and place it in plain view. Make sure the cord does not pose a tripping hazard, run under rugs or carpet, and pass through windows or doors. Do not tandem plug — one extension cord into another — extension cords together and unplug them when you leave. Always try to use a overcurrent protected power strip in lieu of an extension cord.
  • Use only FM or UL listed electrical decorations. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-light sets or a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in-style light string sets.
  • Fire resistant artificial trees are permitted and preferred. Live trees in university buildings are discouraged but can be used in limited occupancies with very specific and restrictive regulations established by the International Fire Code. A permit must be obtained from Environmental Health & Safety prior to live trees being used indoors. 
  • Turn off lights when the room is unoccupied.

Also, if using a space heater, it must be kept three feet away from combustibles when in use. It must be plugged directly into an outlet and unplugged when not in use.

If you have any questions about these or any other fire safety tips, please contact us at 785-532-5856, or email us at firesafety@k-state.edu.