Ghosts and goblins are scary but Halloween hazards are scarier

Halloween returns.

No, it’s not the latest sequel in the horror movie franchise, but rather the expectation that the spooky celebration will look more like pre-COVID-19-pandemic Halloween this October.

Though health officials still recommend some COVID-19 safety restrictions with a record $10.1 billion in U.S. Halloween spending expected this year — including $3.1 billion on decorations — there will be no shortage of ghoulish displays, costumes and potential safety hazards.

Southern California Edison joins fire departments and public safety experts nationwide in encouraging smart, careful decorating and costuming decisions to avoid electrical and fire accidents this Halloween season.

For example: never throw light strands or electrical cords into trees or vegetation near power lines, never place highly flammable decorations too close to heat sources like incandescent light bulbs and especially don’t use burning candles in decorations that can also ignite kids’ costumes.

With California in peak wildfire season, flameless candles are the safest way to illuminate jack-o’-lanterns and all decorations since they produce the same effect as burning candles without the significant fire hazard.

During the three-day period around Halloween, an estimated average of 9,200 fires are reported to U.S. fire departments annually, resulting in 25 deaths, 100 injuries and $117 million in property loss.

“We want families to enjoy their Halloween decorations as safely as possible,” said Robert Torres, SCE’s principal manager of Public Safety. “That means not just aiming for the scariest or most-realistic-looking decorations but keeping safety top of mind and not taking unnecessary risks like overloading extension cords or using damaged bulbs and cords.”

All decorators — particularly those on rooftops or ladders — should always stay at least 10 feet away from power lines and never decorate power poles.

Here are additional dos and don’ts for decorating and celebrating Halloween safely:

HALLOWEEN DOS:

  • Keep highly flammable decorations like cornstalks at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Consider LED lights that generate less heat and are far more efficient.
  • Carefully inspect electrical lights and cords, discarding any with broken bulbs or damaged wires.
  • Use plastic zip cords when hanging lights instead of staples, tacks and nails.
  • Only buy or make flame-resistant costumes for your children.
  • Turn off all electrically powered decorations when leaving home or going to bed
  • Avoid unsafe electrical decorations by using only those bearing the labels of trusted independent safety organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek or CSA.
  • Keep electrical cords from high-traffic areas to prevent trips and falls.
  • Inspect ladders before use and, if possible, have someone support you from the ground while on it.
  • Never release metallic balloons. Keep them tied down because of the safety, fire and outage threat posed when they contact power lines or electrical equipment.

HALLOWEEN DON’TS:

  • Avoid overloading extension cords. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for use of extension cords and connection of light strands.
  • Never connect two extension cords to extend their length and never place them in pinched positions.
  • Never use electrical products outdoors that are marked “for indoor use.”
  • Never use metal ladders since they conduct electricity. Use wooden or fiberglass ladders instead.
  • Never block escape routes with decorations.
This article was written by Paul Netter, an Energized by Edison Writer.