HOUSEOUTSIDEDECOREUS (11/28/2013) - The holiday countdown is on and it's time to get your house razzle-dazzle ready. But before you do, make sure to check that your lights and decorations are still in good working order after a year in storage. Not only can old decor look worn out, but it also can put you and your family at risk -- which is the last thing anyone wants at this joyous time of year.

CSA Group, a leader in public safety testing and certification, offers these tips to help you stay safe this holiday:

* Carefully inspect light strings each year. Discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections. Inspect for storage damage from moisture or rodents.

* Turn off the electricity to the supply outlet before working with outdoor wiring. Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs and check to ensure replacement bulbs match the voltage and wattage of the original. To avoid a shock from damaged wires, use insulated fasteners rather than metal nails or tacks to hold light strings in place.

* Make decorating a family activity by planning this year's theme with the kids, but don't let children or pets play with light strings.

* Keep electrical connectors for outdoor lights above ground, out of water and away from metal gutters. Connect outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by weatherproof ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These can provide protection from electric shock by sensing ground leakage and cutting electrical power.

* Use heavy duty extension cords for high wattage decorations and large electronically-animated displays, and don't overload extension cords.

If you need to purchase new lights, look for a certification mark to ensure they are certified by an organization such as CSA Group.

And remember: outdoor holiday lights are made for seasonal use only; extended exposure to the elements can lead to damage. So when the holidays are over, take down the festive decorations and place them back in their original packaging for next year.

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