Add safety to your holiday traditions

Add safety to your holiday traditions

For millions of people every year, the holiday season comes with traditions of festive lights and decorations, extraordinary foods, and lavish parties.

Unfortunately, time-honored traditions can easily end in tragedy if precautions are not taken. Make a point to take care of yourself and those you love by taking time to decorate safely—without skipping any safety steps.

Shawn Miller
Shawn Miller was seriously injured when
lights that he tossed into a tree made
made contact with overhead power lines. 

Shawn Miller knows firsthand how important every safety step is and how quickly this holiday activity can turn tragic.

He had been hanging holiday lights in the trees that lined his mother’s yard in Indiana. As he tossed the lights up into the trees, 7,200 volts of electricity entered his body, traveling from the overhead power lines through his strand of lights.

“Power lines were the last thing on my mind that day,” Miller says. “I was just hanging Christmas lights at my mom’s house like I do every year, only this time, I was decorating a new area, the trees that lined the front of the yard.”

Although Miller suffered 27 exit wounds, the loss of his left hand, and a finger on his right hand, his survival was miraculous.

Miller and the Safe Electricity program urge everyone to follow these guidelines while decorating for the holiday season:

  • Never throw holiday lights or other decorations into trees near power lines.
  • Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep ladders, equipment, and yourself at least 10 feet from all power lines.
  • Use only lights that have been safety tested and have the UL label.
  • Before use, check each light string for broken sockets, frayed cords, or faulty plugs. Replace damaged strings. Always unplug light strings while replacing bulbs.
  • When decking the outdoors, use only lights, cords, animated displays, and decorations rated for outdoor use. Cords should be plugged into outlets equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets are not equipped with them.
  • Do not staple or nail through light strings or electrical cords, and do not attach cords to utility poles.
  • Don’t string together more than three standard-size sets of lights.
  • Make sure extension cords are in good condition, are UL-approved, and are rated to carry the electrical load you will connect to them.
  • Match plugs with outlets. Don’t force a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet or extension cord.
  • Do not overload outlets.
  • Don’t let children or pets play with light strings or electrical decorations.
  • Always unplug lights before going to bed or leaving your home.

Visit for more information on how to stay safe during the holidays.


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