This is a Hammer

Safer Holiday Lighting

Q: Please remind your readers that when hanging up holiday lights outside, to be careful when setting up and working on ladders. They need to be aware of potential overhead hazards like power lines and make sure not to make contact with them. – An Electrician in San Jose, Calif.

A: That’s an important point to remember, and thank you for sending it. Setting up outdoor lights and displays can be hard work, and it’s easy to forget a few basic safety steps while hurrying to get strings connected and secured in place. Here are some things to remember:

• Always check overhead before setting up ladders, using poles or other equipment, and make sure power lines, tree branches and other hazards are not in your path.
• When planning outdoor displays, include the layout of extension cords and other electrical equipment in your design, so they are placed away from frequently traveled paths.
• Use covered GFI (ground fault interrupter) outlets to reduce the risk of fire and shock, and be sure to not overload circuits.
• Check all the light strings you plan to use, and make sure they’re rated for outdoor use, are not frayed and have no burnt bulbs.
• Don’t work alone: Have a helper to brace the ladder, help unravel light strings and so on.
• If you plan to place decorations on the rooftop, make sure you secure yourself with a safety harness and rope.

HOME TIP: Consider replacing traditional Christmas lights with LED lights. They cost more, but last longer and save a lot of energy.

Send your questions or comments to, or write This Is a Hammer, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. © 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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