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With the holiday season upon us, some members of the campus community may choose to decorate. With this in mind, it is a good time to review the fire safety policies for holiday decorations.
- Natural trees may only be installed in main lobby areas of academic or office buildings. Only artificial trees may be used in other areas.
- Natural trees must be supported in a commercial tree stand. Homemade stands are not permitted since most of them do not provide a way to water the tree.
- Natural trees absorb a lot of water. The water in tree stands must be kept full until the tree is disposed of. Check the water level daily and add water as needed.
- The trees must be kept away from all heat sources such as, radiators, lamps, stoves, appliances, etc.
- Do not locate a tree where, whether upright or fallen, it will block emergency escape routes such as corridors, stairs, or exit doors.
- Do not rely on chemical coatings or solutions to flameproof a natural tree. These materials are not completely effective.
- Keep the tree in the building for the shortest possible time. The tree must be removed when signs of drying are observed.
Natural trees in all buildings must be removed before the occupants leave for winter break.
- Artificial trees also need care in selection and use. Plastic and metallic trees can burn.
- Use an artificial tree that is clearly marked as being flame-retardant or made of slow-burning materials.
- Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems (e.g., lights) should have the Underwriters' Laboratory (UL) label.
- Although metal trees are not a fire hazard, they may become a shock hazard if faulty lighting strings are placed directly on them. Inspect lighting carefully before use.
- Always use noncombustible decorating materials (e.g., metal, glass). Untreated cotton batting, flock, and paper ignite easily and will burn intensely. These products may be used for one-time-only special events (with prior approval of the environmental health and safety office). There are several products that have the UL fire resistive label on the market.
- Fresh-cut evergreen boughs may be used for table decorations at one-time-only special events.
- Evergreen boughs cannot be attached to interior or exterior doors, stairways, hallways, handrails, etc.
- Hanging of crepe paper streamers and large paper decorations, such as posters, from ceilings, doors, and door-frames is prohibited in all buildings. Reasonable quantities of these items bearing the UL fire resistive label may be used in non-residential buildings for a limited duration with prior approval from the environmental health and safety office.
- Reasonable amounts of decorative electric lighting are allowed on trees and for decoration in public areas only. All lighting must be turned off when the occupants leave the area.
- A single string of up to 50 lights or two electric candles will be allowed around or in windows subject to the following conditions:
- The lights must carry the UL label and be in good operating condition. Lighting with broken sockets or frayed/damaged electric cords cannot be used.
- Lights should be directly plugged to a wall outlet whenever possible.
- A single, grounded (3-pronged) extension cord or power-strip may be used to connect the lights directly to a wall outlet.
- Extension cords must have the UL label, be in good condition, and be less than six feet long.
- The UL label must be in good condition and be attached to the lighting cord and extension cord.
- Multi-plug adapters on wall outlets are not permitted.
- The environmental health and safety office reserves the right to inspect any and all lighting and extension cords for safety. Lighting determined to be unsafe will be removed.
- Burning candles are not permitted under any circumstances in any building, unless approved in advance by the environmental health and safety office (see below).
- Lit candles are not permitted as tree decorations.
- Candles can be lit in designated areas only, not in residential rooms or academic offices.
- Candles are only permitted for ceremonial purposes. Individuals or groups must obtain authorization from the environmental health and safety office in advance for the specific time, date, and location of any candle-lighting ceremonies. Candles must be attended at all times by the people lighting them.
ADDITIONAL SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
- Seasonal lighting, candles, decorations, and extension cords are for temporary use only and must be removed immediately after the holidays.
- Know the location of the nearest fire alarm pull station, fire extinguisher, telephone, or red emergency phone.
- In case of fire, activate the nearest pull station, leave the building, call the Office of Public Safety immediately at 911, and follow the evacuation procedure for your building.
- Know the escape routes from any area that you might be in.
- There are products on the market that may say "Tested to Underwriters' Standards" or, "Meets Underwriters' Standards." This is not the same as the Underwriters' seal or label.
- Any questions concerning the use of holiday decorations or fire regulations may be directed to Ron Clark, fire and building safety coordinator for the environmental health and safety office, Office of Public Safety, 274-3086.
Have a safe holiday season!
Contributed by Ron Clark