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tennessee technological university

Environmental Health & Safety

The following holiday display safety guidelines are offered to help keep this festive time of the year from being marred by fires or accidents. Please post and share this information with your staff and ensure that these guidelines are followed.


  • Cut and live trees must be sprayed with a fire retardant. Vendors may have sprayed trees that should carry a tag. The tag must remain on the tree while the tree is in use. Fire retardant sprays are available from merchants. Keep the retardant can in the area to show that you sprayed the tree. A fire retardant solution can also be made by following this recipe: 9 oz. Borax, 4 oz. Boric acid, 1 gallon water, and 1⁄2 teaspoon low sudsing detergent.
  • Treat natural foliage wreaths, garlands, etc. with a fire-retardant, too. These become very dry very quickly.
  • Keep all cut natural trees in at least 2 inches of water at all times. Keep the bottom of the trunk fully immersed.
  • Cut trees and/or live trees are NOT allowed in Residence Halls.
  • Artificial trees bearing the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) approval ratings are preferred. Read the manufacturer's instructions regarding the use of electric lights.
  • Metallic trees may create electrical hazards when placed in close proximity to electrical apparatus; therefore the use of electric lights on metallic trees is prohibited.
  • All Christmas trees must be located so as not to obstruct exits and paths of egress, fire extinguishers, sprinkler heads, exit signs, or fire alarm pull stations.

Lights and Extension Cords

  • Electric light strings should carry a UL or FM approval label and should only be used in accordance with their rated application. Use of miniature electric lights is encouraged since they are both cool and energy efficient. Before placing light strings on the tree, the lighting should be checked for proper operation. Check for fraying, bare wires, loose connections, and cracked plastic parts. If any of these conditions are present, the string or cord may not be used. Christmas lights are inexpensive and it is safer to replace the defective equipment than repair it.
  • Use of extension cords is discouraged. Power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker are recommended if there are not enough outlets. If extension cords are used, they must bear the UL label and be of adequate wire size for the intended use. Only heavy-duty extension cords should be used for decorations and they must be taken out of service after the holiday season. No frayed or broken cords may be used. No multi-plug adapters may be used.
  • No electrical cords (either extension or light cords) may be routed through doorways with doors or under throw rugs or loose carpeting. The opening and closing action of a door and people walking over the carpet will damage the cord. Cords may not be routed under doors because they become tripping hazards.
  • Lights and extension cords used for decorations must be unplugged (not just turned off) at the end of each day.


  • Decorations and displays should be compact. It is also suggested they be confined to office areas.
  • Paper decorations should not cover more than 25% of the surface area of any wall. For example, if an office wall is 8 feet high by 10 feet long, the paper decorations should not cover more than 20 square feet of wall area.
  • Displays/decorations shall not be located in exit corridors or block emergency egress from any room. They must also be kept away from exit signs, fire alarm devices (pull stations, smoke and heat detectors, etc.), fire extinguishers, and emergency and normal-use light fixtures. Exit signs and emergency lights must not be obstructed in any way. Do not hang items from sprinkler heads or sprinkler piping.
  • Please exercise caution with the use of spray applied artificial snow. This type of decoration will set off smoke detectors faster than you can say "Ho Ho Ho"!
  • Use ladders - not chairs, stepstools or boxes - when installing decorations in high locations.

Efforts should be made to remove holiday decorations before university personnel leave for the University Holiday closure. Holiday decorations in residence halls must be removed prior to students leaving for the semester break.

Remember, if a fire should occur:

  • Call 911, report the fire location
  • Sound the building fire alarm
  • Evacuate the area
  • Close doors as you leave

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!