Halloween is supposed to scare people, but an electrical overload, fire, or injury is taking things a bit too far. Here are four important thoughts to take to heart before you juice up your holiday with atmospheric, electrically-powered sights and sounds.
1. Outdoor Lighting Can Cause Terror (for the Wrong Reasons)
Halloween decorations can turn any home into a haunted house, starting with a fearsome exterior for party guests and trick-or-treaters. But don't let your exterior lighting be the cause of an unduly terrifying and hazardous evening. First and foremost, make sure the lighting devices you're using are labeled as safe for outdoor use. If you're re-using old gadgets year after year, check for frayed wiring or other potential hazards before setting them out again. When hanging lights, be careful not to damage the insulated cords, and stay 10 feet or more away from neighborhood power lines.
2. Indoor Electrical Problems Provide Frights of Their Own
Just because your Halloween party is safely ensconced under your roof, that doesn't mean you'll escape the evening without an (unintentionally ) frightening incident occurring. These seasonal events typically include all kinds of electrical contrivances, from extra "mood lights" positioned all over the property to additional speaker systems for those spooky, omnidirectional howling and cackling noises. Just remember that the more devices and systems you plug into your home's electrical system, the more likely you are to create an overload. Make sure you know how to reset the breaker or change a blown fuse -- being thrown into pitch darkness might seem appropriate for the holiday, but it can also promote injuries in a crowded space.
The other big threat from an overburdened electrical system is that of fire. Count yourself relatively lucky if your breaker trips, because it means you were spared the house fire that might well have occurred if the overload had continued unchecked. If your breaker is old or worn out, however, it might fail to engage, and suddenly you've got a real horror scene on your hands. If you're planning a big Halloween party with lots of electrical enhancements, have your residential electrician inspect the breakers, wiring, and other components beforehand, making any repairs or updates necessary to ensure your guests' safety.
3. Little Batteries Can Cause Big Problems
"Batteries Not Included" can be an annoying piece of fine print when you're rigging up your illuminated crystal balls, monsters with moving limbs, and other little electrical novelties to brighten your Halloween. But there's one place where you want to make sure batteries are never included, and that's inside the throats or stomachs of any of your family members or house guests. As amazing as it may sound, nearly 3,500 people in this country swallow those tiny "button" style lithium batteries every year in the U.S. In the adults' case, it may be unintentional, but small children will swallow these little objects just out of curiosity.
Swallowing batteries presents more than just a choking hazard. Digestive acids can eat through the battery's casing, allowing even more corrosive materials to escape. Many children have suffered permanent esophageal injuries or died after swallowing lithium batteries. To play it safe, skip the use of any seasonal toys or other devices that contain button batteries -- this is one kind of nightmare Elm Street (or any other street) doesn't need.
4. Flame Isn't Necessarily "Safer"
With all the potential for trouble associated with electricity during a holiday season, you might feel a tinge of nostalgia for those old-time Halloweens lit predominantly by candlelight -- so much so that you plan on lighting the jack-o'-lanterns lining your front drive with real candles. Restrain that urge! Open flame always presents a risk, indoors or outdoors. A strong wind may kick up, an animal may knock the jack-o-lantern into your yard, or a guest may reach inside without realizing that there's a genuine flame in there.
This is one case where battery-powered electrics are the safe way to go. Flashlights powered by bulky, non-ingestible D-cell batteries can do a perfectly good job of lighting up those scary hand-carved faces. You can also place them in torches as reasonable substitute for the combustible variety.
A little forethought, some attention to detail, and a visit from your residential electrician can make your Halloween safer and happier. It's also worth noting that many of the same issues concerning residential Halloween parties and decorations apply to corporate settings and events, so get your facility inspected by a commercial electrician before celebrating the season at work. In either case, have a safe holiday!