JIS News

Story Highlights

  • 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, Emelio Ebanks said his organisation will be increasing its public education activities during the Christmas season to encourage safety within the homes and work places.
  • “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.

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, Emelio Ebanks said his organisation will 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,” Mr. 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.

He was speaking during a JIS Think Tank held at the Agency’s Half Way Tree Road offices on Friday, December 2.

Mr. 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,” Mr. Ebanks warned.

Christmas lights should also be un-plugged 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 stickered cords are for indoor use only while the red stickered cords, can be used both indoor and outdoor.

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

Meanwhile, Mr 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.

“So plug it in while you’re in the store and check it,” he noted.

Christmas trees are also a possible hazard and the UL rating on man-made trees must be checked to avoid possible breaches.

Mr. Ebanks noted that Christmas trees [usually pine] after removing the lower limbs, should be placed in a container that can hold some water. That water should at least be refreshed every day.

“The reason for this is that the tree is still absorbing water and maintaining some amount of moisture. The fresher it is [the tree] the least likelihood of it catching fire. Position all trees at least three feet away from heat sources.”

On the matter of cooking and leaving lit stoves unattended, Mr. Ebanks said this is a definite ‘no no’, especially if the person cooking is tired and wants to take a nap.

“Thinking that the pot won’t dry out or boil over before they wake up has led to numerous fires in homes,” he noted.

Mr. Ebanks is also advocating for the storage of firefighting equipment such as extinguishers and heat detectors in kitchens.

He added that consideration must also be given for the installation of smoke detectors which should be placed at strategic locations throughout the home or business place.

Mr. Ebanks also mention that every household should have an emergency evacuation plan and simple procedures to exit.

“At all times you must know how many persons are in your household so you can do a count off,” he stressed.
He further added that consideration should be given for a hinged window grill on the ground floor, which would work as an alternate escape route in the event the main exit is barred.