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November 15, 2010

Deck the halls . . . safely

star lightMany staff members and students enjoy decorating their individual rooms, offices, and residential facilities for the holidays. Environmental Health and Safety reminds the University community that there are numerous fire safety–related hazards that can be created by decorations. The department offers the following guidelines for holiday decorations.

Learn more at

For all areas of the University:

  • The use of natural trees (cut or alive), natural wreaths, garland, boughs, or greenery is prohibited except as approved by the Fire Marshal.
  • Only UL-listed artificial trees, wreaths, garland, boughs, or greenery labeled as fire resistant or flame retardant are permitted.
  • Christmas trees and related decorations are not permitted in corridors, aisles, stairways, or passageways. Trees and related decorations should not obstruct the view of exit signs.
  • The use of candles, lanterns, oil lamps, or any type of other open flames is prohibited. Refer to the University’s Open Flames, Candle Guidelines at
  • Do not use holiday lights, electric ornaments, and extension cords in corridors or over exit doors.
  • Electrical outlets should not be overloaded. Cube taps are prohibited.

For the Medical Center and patient-care areas:

  • Combustible materials such as hay or straw, bamboo, dry moss, wood shavings, dry leaves, wood bark, corn stalks and corn shucks, sawdust, tumbleweed, flammable powders or liquids, plastic sheeting and pallets, cotton batting, flock, paper streamers, or confetti in large quantities are prohibited.
  • Electric light sets should bear the Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) label and be identified for indoor use.
  • Turn off all holiday lights before leaving the area and at the end of the workday.
  • The use of holiday lights and electric ornaments in corridors and over exit doors is prohibited. Wiring should not be strung through doors or ceilings or be placed under carpeting.
  • Don’t use extension cords. Only 1 surge-protected power strip should be used. If possible, plug the light strand directly into a power outlet.
  • No more than three sets of holiday lights should be connected together.
  • Light strings should be carefully checked before use to ensure there are no loose sockets and that wires are not frayed or damaged.
  • Light strings can generate enough heat to ignite paper or cardboard. Holiday lights should not come into contact with paper, packages, cloth, or other combustible items.
  • Use only the gray or brown electrical outlets, as they are not on an emergency power circuit.
  • Do not attach light strings to walls or molding with staples, tacks, nails, or paper tape. Use electrical tape or string them with cup-type hooks.
  • Fire and smoke doors should not be decorated.
  • Decorations should not obstruct views through windows and door vision panels.Do not display or hang paper decorations unless they are noncombustible or limited combustible, such as foil wrapping. No paper wrapping is allowed.
  • Limited spray snow is allowed.

For River Campus facilities and off-site housing:

  • Artificial trees may be metallic or nonmetallic. Don’t place electric lights on metallic trees. Remote spotlights are recommended for use with metal trees to avoid an electrical hazard.
  • For holiday decorations, use plastic or foil decorations such as satin balls, plastic icicles, and holiday ribbon. Spray snow and tinsel are also permissible.
  • Combustible materials may not be placed on the surface of doors facing hallways, stairwells, or other exits (resident room doors, bathrooms doors, stairwell doors, exterior doors, etc.) Examples of combustible materials include paper, contact paper, and plastics, etc.
  • One exception to this is a single memo or message board may be placed on a resident room door facing the hallway. The size may not exceed 200 square inches.
  • Posting of resident names is permitted on a name board placed next to the door on the masonry wall, not on the door. Room numbers may not be covered, and the nametag or sign may not exceed 200 square inches for both residents combined.
  • Posting of flyers and other combustible material is permitted only on general purpose bulletin boards, hall council bulletin boards, and authorized posting areas for residence hall staff.

For specific questions, contact the University Fire Marshal’s Office at 275-3243.

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