Plug Gets Pulled but Holiday Display Still Lights Up Office

Loss Amount: $300,000

Situation: As the year ends, many companies, stores, hotels, and residences display holiday decorations to help in celebrating the season. One office had just finished setting up an artificial Christmas tree covered with electric lights that wrapped around the tree. To provide a more festive feel to the area, additional lights were strung around windows and poles. All of this lighting was plugged into various extension and power strip cords. The effect was so nice that employees walked away leaving everything lit when they left for the evening.

A manager was still on site that evening and discovered the lights still on. He proceeded to unplug the cords and power strips. A short time later, the manager smelled smoke, but unfortunately he couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, so he left for the evening.

The source of the smoke was the overloaded electrical components, which had malfunctioned earlier and had already heated up to the point where a fire resulted, even after the power had been cut. The fire significantly damaged the contents of the office. Fortunately there was no damage to the building itself due to the fact that the site had automatic fire sprinklers that worked well and had controlled the fire by the time the fire department arrived.

Lesson Learned:

  • Turn off decorative lights when leaving the office. If no one is in the office or when the business day is over, require that the lights be turned off.
  • Inspect/check all electrical items to be used initially. Make sure that none of the cords is broken or frayed. Replace frayed cords with new ones.
  • Don’t overload the outlets. With so many electrical power requirements for decorations, don’t try to plug everything into a single outlet or a single strip.
  • Use only UL listed electrical items. Holiday light sets are not always UL listed, especially those that are manufactured outside of the U.S. If you have any questions about the lights you are using (e.g., any recall on the lights), contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Don’t overload the outlets. With so many electrical power requirements for decorations, don’t try to plug everything into a single outlet or a single strip.
  • Never place electric cords under mats. Someone could trip/fall over cords crossing aisles. However, cords can become damaged if they are put under mats and could cause fires. There are appropriate cord covers that can be obtained and utilized for this purpose.
  • Maintain automatic fire protection. Automatic fire protection equipment should be tested, inspected, and maintained in accordance with the requirements designated by the authority having jurisdiction. This may include your city, county, insurance provider, and/or NFPA 25 (Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems). This is important to make sure that the system will function properly in the event of a fire emergency.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.