Safer ways to set up holiday light displays

LOS ANGELES Hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of people each year for falls, cuts, shocks and burns due to faulty holiday decorations and lights.

Whether your holiday lights display is elaborate or simple, setting it up should require you to think of safety first, especially around the ladder.

Ladder climbing, even done carefully, poses one of the biggest risks to homeowners. And so is the type of ladder you use around electricity.

Aluminum is out, fiberglass is in. Why?

"If some reason your light shorted out and you got shocked, it wouldn't go to the ladder and ground you," said Richard Fair, an electrical specialist at Home Depot in Woodland Hills. "It could kill you, it could injure you, it could burn you."

He says a good alternative is an extension pole to allow you to hang up lights without a ladder.

Another safety precaution is to not plug too many strands of lights together. That's a recipe for a fire.

"If the lights are heating up, it could cause an electrical short," Fair said.

One way to avoid that is to use a heavy-duty timer that can handle multiple strings of lights and has a built in surge protector.

If you need new lights, check out the LED lights, which are cool to the touch.

The LED lights save energy, last longer and if one of the lights goes out, the rest stay on.

Finally, look for the UL listing on packaging or tags for safety.

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