Giant, menacing pumpkins. Creepy witches and cauldrons. Spiders the size of Volkswagens. It can only mean one thing: Halloween is just around the corner. When it comes to outdoor decorating, no holiday – not even Christmas – offers as much variety as Halloween. Driven as much by a need to create a festive trick-or-treating atmosphere as it is by a deep desire to keep up with – or, hopefully, surpass – your neighbors’ creativity, Halloween decorating has become a major hobby in recent years. And while all those colorful, eerie lights and inflatables sure do look cool, they also can pose hazards to homeowners as well as trick-or-treaters. To make sure your holiday is filled with fun, keep these safety tips in mind when you’re decorating:
- Check electrical cords for damaged plugs, fraying or bare spots. When in doubt, throw it out. (Added bonus: Now you’ve got an excuse to buy a new decoration!). Same with extension cords. And speaking of extension cords, be sure yours aren’t stretched across a walkway where they could become a tripping hazard to trick-or-treaters.
- Skip the candles. Yes, they may be the traditional choice for lighting up jack-o-lanterns, but they’re also a serious fire hazard, especially if left unattended. Flowing costumes and wigs can easily catch fire, so to make sure you and your guests stay safe, opt for flashlights or battery-operated candles, both of which can do double-duty indoors when Halloween is over.
- Put the hammer down. Never tack up light strings using nails or staples which can puncture wires or cause wire insulation to wear away, resulting in serious electrical shock and even fire. Instead, invest in hangers designed specifically for outdoor lighting. Nearly every hardware store and big-box store carries them, and most can be left up so they’re ready for use next year.
- Make sure your outlets are grounded. When using outdoor decorations, you want to be sure the outlets are protected by GFCIs – ground fault circuit interrupters – to avoid shock. And of course, you want to be sure the decorations you choose are approved for outdoor use and bear the seal of an approved testing lab, like UL, CSA or ETL-SEMKO.
- Practice safe carving. If a good, old-fashioned jack-o-lantern is on your list of must-have decorations, skip the knives and invest in a set of pumpkin carving tools – especially if kids will be taking part. Tools are available in most major discount retailers, and even drugstores and supermarkets often carry them. And don’t leave the seeds and pulp on the ground where they can cause slips.
Decorating for Halloween can be lots of fun, both for you and for your neighborhood. Following these simple steps will help ensure the focus is on the treats, and not the tricks.