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Safety is key when illuminating for the holidays

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Here in the great melting pot, our holiday traditions are as unique as our DNA and just as difficult to change.

In my house we celebrate Christmas, which entails trips to Grandma's house, cookie baking and gift wrapping. Ah the warm and fuzzy stuff — I can almost smell the cinnamon.

But, early in December, there is another tradition in which I participate and unlike my pleasurable late December indulgence in red wine and carved swine, this one leaves me bitter, irritated and cold. What is it? Well it's outdoor decorating, of course, a task which has made me mad each of the 21 years I've been doing it.

True, fastening hundreds of feet of light strands to the rain gutters while cold wind burns the ears and flash-freezes the hands has a certain Rockwellian appeal. But, it's not as romantic as it sounds.

Danger, after all, lurks on ladder rungs and in frayed wires. In an instant, decorating for a festive season can turn tragic. According to the United States Product Safety Commission, nearly 250 accidents per day occur during the holiday season. Among them are fires, falls and electrical shocks — the vast majority of which are preventable.

Even for me, a guy with notably bad judgement, following a few strict and basic safety rules is a no-brainer.

Cracked wire sheathing, broken cord ends and any electrical apparatus of questionable quality go to the trash.

If the ladder is not on a solid and level surface, it gets re-adjusted. If the ladder is a piece of garbage, I treat it like one and throw it away. If I get too cold to safely handle any of those items, I go inside and warm up.

It is also important to protect electrical connections from water infiltration and never exceed or ignore safety warnings on packages.

Never overload circuits or outlets and forget about using high wattage bulbs in low wattage fixtures.

After decorating, remember to keep an eye on the finished product. Make sure your wires are cool and your live tree has water in the reservoir.

By paying attention to detail, and reminding yourself that you will not enjoy any of the holiday traditions if you are in the hospital, you can avoid disaster.

Like all of you, I have seen “Christmas Vacation” 37 times and, yes, it is hilarious when Clark Griswold falls from the ladder and staples his glove to the roof.

The scenes that depict dozens of wires plugged into one outlet and an accidental Christmas tree fire are a hoot.

But the movies are fake and the real life consequences of those types of situations are scary and sad.

So decorate, by all means decorate.

Make the most of whatever your traditions are this season. But do so safely so that your traditions are enjoyable (or miserable), for years and years to come.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars and a freelance columnist for the Tribune-Review. Call the store at 724-625-9090 with any questions.

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