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Campus environmental committee has guidelines for holiday decorations, safe use of space heaters

November 22, 2010

Photo of Christmas lightsTo minimize the potential fire hazards associated with holiday season decorations, the NIU Campus Security and Environmental Quality Committee recommends strict observation of the following guidelines.

  • Environmental Health and Safety prohibits the use of live or cut Christmas trees in university buildings. Artificial trees made of fire retardant materials having Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) approval ratings are allowed. No natural trees, wreathes, boughs or other decorations constructed from the branches of natural trees may be used. Metallic trees can create electrical hazards when placed in close proximity to the electrical outlets therefore the use of electric lights on metallic trees is prohibited.
  • Trees and other decorations must be located so as not to obstruct exit corridors, fire extinguishers, sprinkler heads, exit signs, fire alarm pull stations, smoke alarms or heat detectors. Do not affix or tie decorations to such equipment. Trees should also not block emergency egress from any room.
  • Electric light strings should carry a UL or FM approval label. Prior to use check for fraying, bare wires, loose connections and cracked plastic parts. If any of these conditions are present, the string or cord should not be used. Use of miniature electric lights are encouraged since they are both cooler and more energy efficient than regular size lighting. Light strings should not be routed through doorways with doors, under rugs or loose carpeting or across work surfaces. Routing of cords through these areas can cause damage to the cord and create a tripping hazard. Unplug holiday lighting when the area is unoccupied.
  • UL-listed surge protectors should be used instead of extension cords to prevent circuit overloading. Frayed or broken cords should not be used. “Daisy-chaining” surge protectors and using multi-plug adapters are prohibited in university buildings.
  • Displays should be compact. Garlands, streamers or displays that extend down a hallway should not be used because of their potential to spread fire and impede egress. These displays should be confined to office areas (laboratories should not have any displays).
  • Candles, oil lamps, incense or other open flame devices are prohibited on campus. Decorative candles should have their wicks clipped or capped to discourage lighting.
  • Please remove all trees and decorations before leaving campus for the holidays.

Since “tis the season” to use portable space heaters, please reference the following guidelines on their safe use:

  • Space heaters must be UL- or FM-tested and be outfitted with a tip-over switch which will turn off the heating element and fan if the unit is knocked over.
  • Space heaters must be in good repair and have cords long enough to reach the electrical outlet. EXTENSION CORDS MUST NOT BE USED ON HEATERS.
  • Space heaters must be unplugged at the end of the work day or if the building will be left unattended for an extended period.
  • Space heaters requiring the use of kerosene of other flammable/combustible fuels are strictly prohibited.
  • Space heaters outfitted with exposed heating elements are strictly prohibited.
  • Space heaters must be kept three (3) feet from any combustible materials and at least fifty (50) feet from flammable storage.
  • The placement of the heater should not create a tripping or evacuation hazard.
  • Fire/smoke rated doors must not be blocked open in order to better distribute heat.
  • Space heaters must have a thermostat that shuts off the unit when a certain temperature is reached.
  • Nothing should ever be placed on top of or touching the heater.
  • Space heaters should be positioned on a solid noncombustible floor and not on top or underneath a cabinet, table, furniture, etc.
  • Finally, take a minute to locate the exit routes leading from your office to the building exit, noting the locations of fire extinguishers and fire alarm pull stations along the way.

For more information, refer to the NIU Emergency Guide and the Annual Fire Safety Compliance Report.