Simple Safety guidelines for festive decorations

  • Over three million households leave their Christmas tree lights on while they are out, or overnight
  • Claims for home fires are greater in December than the average month
  • Housing tenants can take simple precautions to ensure their homes are safe this Christmas

Few things symbolise Christmas more than a tree adorned with twinkly lights. However, an alarming number of people in the UK are putting themselves and their homes at risk by not following simple safety guidelines when putting up their festive decorations.

According to new research conducted by Zurich, over three quarters (77%) of Brits illuminate their Christmas trees with electric lights. Two fifths (39%) put up decorative lights around the house, while one in five (21%) use fairy lights to decorate the outside of their homes.

However, in their haste to make their homes look as Christmassy as possible, many people ignore obvious fire hazards. Common causes of house fires around this period include unsafe electrical decorations, poor-quality lights, overloaded plugs and dried-out trees. And Zurich’s research found that around three million UK households leave their Christmas tree lights on all the time, or overnight.

Analysis of Zurich’s data shows that fire-related claims spike in December when compared to the monthly average, and while candles are the main cause of fires during the festive period, they are closely followed by electrical appliances and wiring.

“Christmas is a time for celebrating, and decorations are a central part of that. However, while Christmas tree lights add festive sparkle, they can also be dangerous if a few very simple checks are overlooked,” warns Phil Ost, a home insurance expert at Zurich.

“Poor-quality lights, overloaded electrical sockets and lights left on overnight, or while the tenants are out of the house, can put homes at risk.”

As many as one in 20 people (6%) leave their Christmas tree lights on permanently, not turning them off until they take them down, and a further 6% leave them on overnight – only turning them off when the house is empty.

“To reduce the possibility of a Christmas tree fire, Christmas lights should be turned off when tenants are out, or overnight,” continues Ost. “On top of this, trees should be kept away from any heat sources, and real trees should be properly watered so that they don’t dry out.”

Other ways to prevent fires over the festive season include:

  • Checking that old lights are safe before using them
  • Buying a smart timer that automatically switches off lights after a set amount of time, or that enables you to turn them off remotely (i.e. via a smart device)
  • Using different plug sockets to power your lights and other electrical decorations, rather than overloading a single socket

Concludes Ost: “Simple actions like these will help make sure that the only flame during the season is on the Christmas pudding.”