Decorating for the Holidays and Special Events

Decorating For The Holidays And Special Events


Holiday fire statistics: Every holiday season, fires claim the lives of over 400 Americans, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. Decorations ignite first, based on more than 1,000 home fires each year.


How to prevent fires and electrical shock

  1. Use decorations from the “SAFE” column below in offices, suites, enclosed lounges, and other non-public areas.
  2. Contact the EHS Safety Program if you plan to decorate an Auditorium, classroom, atrium/ lobby (public assembly spaces). Extra precautions may be needed. Fire regulations prohibit cut, live “Christmas” trees, wreaths, boughs, etc. in public assembly spaces. 
  3. Do not decorate exit stairways or corridors.
  4. Do not hang decorations or extension cords from overhead sprinkler pipes or heads, conduit, other types of pipes, over or under doors. Do not attach decorations to or block the view of any type of fire equipment.
  5. Inspect light strands for frayed wires, bare spots or gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked plugs/ outlets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting the light strands up.
  6. Keep lighting equipment (especially high intensity) and other ignition sources 3 feet away from decorations. Refer to candles and space heaters.
  7. Exit signs and doors must be clearly visible, can not be obscured or disguised by decorations. Decorations can not block the exit path. Exit signs can not be turned off. 
  8. Maintain access to all exit doors, stairs and corridors. Do not obstuct or narrow the path to the exit or the exit door. 
  9. Do not hang fabrics from the ceiling or on the wall(s).     
  10. Do not spray artificial snow because it could activate the fire alarm and cause lung irritation.
  11. Remove decorations immediately after the holiday/ event. 



Safer and Greener-Decorations that are " UL listed", "flame retardant " or don't burn easily, such as those listed below:

  • UL listed indoor LED strands are safer and more energy efficient
  • No more than 3 strands of lights per extension cord.
  • Run extension cords under tables or along the lwall, not under carpets or across doorways
  • Unplug liight strands when leaving the room.
  • Dried leaves, grasses, corn stalks, hay and straw treated with Roscoflamex WD 
  • Fresh flowers
  • Potted indoor and outdoor plants such as flowers and herbs
  • pumpkins/ gourds  
  • colorful bowl or decorative arrangements of fruits/ vegetables
  • Sea shells, colorful stones 
  • Ribbon or beads
  • solar powered LED strands (outdoor use)
  • Fabrics that can be effectively treated with flame retardant  


NOT safe nor green-Decorations that burn easily, cannot be effectively treated with flame-retardant and are not UL listed, or can ignite nearby items, such as:  

    Ø Flame-retardants are not effective on coniferous “Christmas” trees, wreaths, boughs, etc. due to the sap and how fast these dry out inside heated buildings. 

        Video of how fast these burn

        Artificial trees and wreaths contain PVC and lead. When these deteriorate, children could be exposed to the dust and the fire retardant properties may diminish.   

Ø  Open flames such as candles and incense

    Ø Streamers or Confetti made out of Paper, plastic, foil, vinyl, Styrofoam, etc. unless these are sold as fire retardant 

        Sheer, mesh, gauze-type fabrics 

    Ø  The use of outdoor light strands indoors is a fire hazard. The wattage is 7 times higher than the LED type.  The heat can melt plastic and ignite other items.  Never use lights on a metallic, artificial tree.

         Traditional holiday lights generate as much global warming pollution as about 250,000 cars annually, according to Union of Concerned Scientists research.


Sources of information:


Electrical Safety Foundation International

Edu Risk by United Educators