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Don't let Christmas cheers turn into tears

Published: 4th December 2012

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Michael Gallacher and Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts today warned NSW residents to be careful when decorating their homes this festive season to ensure Christmas celebrations don’t turn into heart break.

Minister Gallacher said as householders started putting up their Christmas trees, lights and decorations they should be mindful that overloading and failing to check power boards and power points were real fire safety risks.

“The use of decorative lights and candles, piggy-backing double adapters and using electrical cords and plugs that have been packed away for 12 months all have the potential to cause a fire in the home,” he said.

“Checking lights and other decorations is a simple but effective way to prevent a household fire this festive season.”

Mr Gallacher said there were 574 residential fires between 1 December 2011 and 31 January 2012, with 96 people injured during that period. At least 250 of those fires involved electrical equipment and at least 16 were caused by candles.

“Getting into the spirit of Christmas with lots of lights and other accessories is great fun but over-enthusiastic decorating can lead to overloaded electrical circuits.”

Mr Roberts said only lights and decorations designed for Christmas trees should be used and be sure not to use internal lights outside.

“Babies and toddlers will be attracted to the colourful lights, so families should avoid using lights that operate on 240 volts,” he said.

“Use lights that operate on extra low voltage. These types of light use a transformer to bring the voltage down to a safe level.

“We want NSW families to have a bright, happy and safe Christmas this year so we’re urging people to use their common sense when it comes to electrical safety.”

Fire & Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jim Smith said too many NSW families have had their Christmas spoilt by a trip to the hospital because of accidents in the home that are easily preventable.

“Whatever your tradition and however you spend the holidays, we’re asking you to do it safely,” Deputy Commissioner Smith said.

FESTIVE FIRE SAFETY HINTS

  • Check lights and electrical decorations for faults, worn plugs and frayed cords.
  • When you’re setting up fairy lights and other electrical decorative ornaments make sure you use only one item per power socket. For maximum safety, if you use a power board ensure it has overload protection.
  • Only use decorative lights that have an Australian Standards label.
  • Inspect the plugs and leads of used decorative lights to ensure they are in good working order. If in doubt, replace the lights.
  • Never use Christmas lights designed for indoor use in outdoor settings.
  • Lights can become hot and candles can cause a fire so don’t place them near paper trimmings, decorations or curtains and don’t leave burning candles unattended.
  • Immediately call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the fire service if a fire breaks out - make sure that everybody moves outside to safety.

For more information visit www.fire.nsw.gov.au