Safety experts from UL and the National Fire Protection Association offer the following tips when you're decorating outdoors:
Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when near power lines and electrical wiring. Metal ladders conduct electricity.
Use the right height ladder, ensuring it extends 3 feet over the roofline or working surface.
Set the ladder on a firm, level surface and avoid soft or muddy ground.
Never exceed the ladder's weight limit or the maximum load rating.
Never stand on a step ladder's bucket shelf. Read and follow the warning stickers for highest standing levels.
Only one person on the ladder.
Don't carry equipment while climbing. Buy a tool belt or have someone hand equipment to you.
Face the ladder when climbing up or down, keeping your body centered between the side rails.
Look for the UL Mark on light strings, electrical decorations and extension cords. The UL Mark means that UL engineers have tested representative samples of the product for foreseeable safety hazards such as fire and electric shock.
Ensure lights, decorations and extension cords are rated for outside use. Lights intended for indoor-only use bear green UL Marks. Light strings intended for indoor and outdoor use bear red UL Marks.
Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for electrical decorations.
Carefully inspect each electrical decoration - new or old - before plugging it in. Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a serious electric shock or start a fire. Replace damaged items with new, UL-Listed decorations.
Don't use staples or nails to hang light strings. Instead, purchase hooks or clips designed for hanging light strings.
Check packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that may be connected or use this rule of thumb: Connect a maximum of three midget (push-in bulbs) light strings or up to 50 bulbs of light strings with the screw-in bulbs (C7s and C9s).
Don't overload extension cords by plugging in too many decorations.