NORTHBROOK, Ill., Oct. 12, 2009 – For many families across the country, Halloween is the official launch of the holiday and decorating season. In fact, a recent study predicts Halloween spending may reach $5.77 billion on costumes, decorations and candy. Whether adorning their homes with jack-o-lanterns, decorative lights or creepy cobwebs, many families don’t realize their Halloween traditions might be dangerous if not done safely.  

On Halloween night there is a significant increase in home fires, burn-related injuries and falls. Most injuries involve flammable costumes and decorations. Home fires are 70 percent more likely to happen on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day than on any other day of the year according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

"October through January experiences the greatest number of structure fires caused by an open flame," says John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at Underwriters Laboratories. "As parents, we need to make sure we are taking the appropriate safety measures when it comes to decorating our homes and outfitting our children in costumes."

To help parents recognize potential safety hazards associated with many Halloween activities, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the leading independent product safety organization, is offering the following tips as a guide to ensure loved ones enjoy a safe Halloween season.

Safe and Scary Home Decorating

  • Inspect decorations for loose connections, frayed or bare wires and broken or cracked sockets when using lights to decorate the home for Halloween. When hanging lights, use plastic hooks or clips to reduce the risk of electric shock and fire hazards. Never nail or staple light strings.
  • Don’t overload extension cords by plugging in electrical decorations that draw more watts than the rating of the cord. Use special, heavy duty extension cords for high wattage decorations such as fog machines and electrically-powered inflatable decorations.
  • Look for the holographic UL Mark on light strings, electrical decorations and extension cords before tacking up the skeleton and pumpkin lights. UL has been testing products for potential risk of fire, electric shock and other hazards for 115 years. The UL Mark means the product has been found free of foreseeable hazards and is safer for your family.
  • Keep candles away from items that easily catch fire, such as decorations, window treatments, and paper. Halloween is the fifth highest day for reported candle fires. Candles are the cause of approximately 15,000 reported house fires every year.

Safe and Scary Costumes Dressing 

  • Look for flame resistant labels when purchasing costumes, fabric and accessories. Although this label does not mean these items won’t catch fire, it does indicate the fabric will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source.
  • Costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping and falling. Avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts, which could increase the risk of tripping and are more likely to come in contact with candles or other ignition sources.
  • Purchase or make costumes from light-colored material. Light and bright fabrics will be clearly visible to motorists. If your children do wear dark materials, decorate costumes with reflective tape or carry a flashlight for better visibility.
  • Use makeup instead of a mask. Masks can obstruct vision and children may find it hard to breathe when wearing them. If a mask is used, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision.

"Decorations, costumes and candles all pose potentially serious hazards that parents need to be aware of when preparing for the holiday season," says Drengenberg. "If your family plans to keep decorative lights up throughout the holiday season, remember to take them down after 90 days to prevent possible damage from weather conditions and neighborhood animals."

For more information on how to keep your family safe this Halloween and throughout the holiday season, visit www.ul.com/consumers.