Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Check wiring before putting up lights - JFB

Published:Tuesday | December 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Emilio Ebanks

The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is urging householders to have their wiring checked by a licensed electrician before putting up decorative Christmas lights in order to prevent fires.

Senior Deputy Superintendent and Public Relations Officer at the JFB Emilio Ebanks said that his organisation would be increasing its public education activities during the Christmas season to encourage safety within the homes and work places.

"Please ensure that at least once per year, you have a certified and licensed electrician come in and check your wiring," Ebanks said.

"For buildings over five years old, it's extremely important as some amount of weathering would have taken place, and you want to ensure that in the event of a power surge, your junction boxes and breakers can accommodate [the surge of electricity] and do what it is supposed to do," he added.

caution urged

Ebanks also warned against the inappropriate use of decorative lights, while stating that lights have ratings and are manufactured for specific location use.

Additionally, extension cords are also manufactured for a specific use and, therefore, should also undergo some level of close scrutiny.

"It is extremely important that no more than five Christmas lights are plugged into each other. More than that would be overloading the circuit, and if the breaker is not up to par, it will cause a short circuit, which can lead to a fire. It is also important not to connect too many appliances on an extension cord as it could overload the wattage rating," he noted.

He had a warning for owners who rate themselves as being handy around the home.

"If you find that an extension cord, light, or appliance cord is broken, please replace it. Do not use your knife to splice the cord, twist the cord back together and put some tape over it. Please replace it. It is way cheaper to purchase another one than doing the repair, and it causes a fire," Ebanks warned.

Christmas lights should also be unplugged before retiring to bed or before leaving the house or establishment.

Underwriters Laboratory (UL) ratings should also be checked to ensure the correct use of lights, cords, or appliances. Green UL-sticker cords are for indoor use only while the red-sticker cords can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Underwriters Laboratory is an independent testing facility that tests for safety standards.

Ebanks pointed out that a thorough inspection of lights before they are purchased is essential as the lights may be new to the purchaser, but the store/seller may have had it in storage for a long time.