The Virginia Chapter, International Association of
Electrical Inspectors, wants you and your family to be safe and free from
electrical hazards during the holiday season and offers these safety tips
for your home.
Always test your ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
and arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) before you plug in your
decorations. Ground-fault circuit interrupters protect you from shock in wet
areas, while arc-fault circuit interrupters protect conductors from shorts
and arcing caused by damaged wiring and loose connections.
Testing them will let you know two things — one, whether
your GFCI or AFCI is working properly; and two, when you plug in your
decoration, if your GFCI or AFCI trips, you will know the decoration is
faulty and should be discarded or checked by a licensed electrician. Another
good device is called an in-use outdoor-receptacle cover. This protects the
cord and receptacle from the weather when the cord is plugged in.
Be sure extension cords are the right size for your need.
If an extension cord is to be used outside, use one rated for outdoors
that’s the right length. Never plug one extension cord into another to
extend cord length. This may cause an unwanted voltage drop, damaging your
electrical equipment. And never, ever run extension cords under carpeting or
in front of doorways where they become tripping hazards. No type of cord
should ever be run through doorways or windows where they may become
pinched. If a cord is missing the ground prong, the cord should be
Receptacles should accept cords firmly and snugly. If the
cord fits loosely or hangs out where the blades are exposed, this is a fire
and shock hazard. Faulty receptacles need to be replaced. Check all cover
plates to be sure they are tight and not cracked or broken. Use child-proof
inserts in all unused accessible receptacles to protect young children from
inserting objects into the receptacle.
Smoke detectors need servicing just like your automobile.
During the holiday season when you have your ladder out to install
decorations is the perfect time to replace the batteries in all of your
smoke detectors, and to vacuum or blow them clean. Smoke detectors collect
dust and need regular cleaning. Replacing the battery once a year is a good
practice. During winter storms you may lose power, but with fresh batteries
your smoke detectors will still function.
Always inspect your decoration cords for cuts, nicks or
burn spots. If they are damaged, discard. Always follow manufacturer’s
installation instructions; be mindful of use limits. We also recommend
insulated staples when installing decorations on your home. These help
prevent nicks and cuts in the insulation. Remember outdoor decorations move
with the wind, and this movement can wear away at un-insulated
Plan your decorations carefully so as not to overload your
electrical system, but also to avoid overhead wires. Aluminum ladders should
never be used near overhead wires; you should maintain at least 10 feet from
wiring attached to your home. Accidents happen quickly. After the holidays
are over, be sure to take down your decorations. Most decorations are not
designed for long exposure to the elements. They can become brittle, lose
their insulation and become fire or shock hazards.
Finally, when doing home improvements or repairs, always
use licensed electrical contractors so they may obtain proper permits, and
be sure all work is inspected by your local inspection department. Talk to
your local building official for more information when permits are required.
Simple repairs may not need permits.
For more safety tips and safety checklists, please visit
our website at
electrical safety is our goal.