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Penny-wise, pound-foolish - Jamaicans putting themselves at risk by fixing damaged Christmas lights

Published:Friday | December 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
The well-lit fountain in the St William Grant Park during the annual Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation Christmas Tree-Lighting Ceremony last week.
Stella Maris Church with Christmas lights on December 12, 2016.

Jamaicans trying to save money by splicing old and damaged Christmas lights could be putting themselves at risk of electrical fires, which have already seen an uptick so far this year.

The Jamaica Fire Brigade last week told The Sunday Gleaner that it has already recorded 345 electrical fires this year and it is bracing for more during the Christmas season.

"If the cords, the plugs, the lights are damaged, just discard them. Do not repair them. Do not put on any tape on them. You can get Christmas lights for as low as $250. It could be penny wise and pound foolish to try to repair them," warned Emelio Ebanks, public relations officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade.

He noted that there are a number of measures which can be taken to minimise the risk of household fires during the festive season.

"No more than three Christmas lights must be plugged into each other, and when you are doing decoration on the outside, make sure that these lights are properly labelled for outdoor use," said Ebanks, as he also urged Jamaicans to turn off Christmas lights when they are not in use.

He noted that real Christmas trees are a little less flammable than the artificial ones but urged Jamaicans to be careful no matter what type of tree they use.

Ebanks also urged parents not to leave small children unsupervised near Christmas trees that could tilt and fall.


Faulty extension cords


The warning from Ebanks followed a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum in which the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) warned that there are some faulty extension cords on the market.

"We have seen ordinary electrical cords that wouldn't meet the standard. You have some of these cheap products that the grounding plugs for the electrical cords and Christmas lights are false. So you have to look out for that," Wendell Richards, head of the Standards and Compliance Department at the BSJ, told Gleaner editors and reporters.

But Ebanks added that extension cords should be avoided altogether during the Christmas season.

"We recommend something that has a surge protector. And don't get caught in that trap where you see the word 'surge' written all over. Make sure it is properly certified with the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) ratings," said Ebanks.

"If the ground is not properly installed then you wouldn't have anything to take the charge back to the supply, so when you have any type of surge, that could pose some form of difficulties," added Ebanks.