The University Record, December 5, 1995

Live trees prohibited in all U facilities

With the winter holiday season already in full swing, University units are reminded that the use of natural trees is prohibited in University buildings, according to Robert Patrick, associate director of the Department of Public Safety.

"The National Code [National Fire Protection Association] prohibits the use of live trees in educational, assembly, health care, hotel, apartment and dormitory facilities. The only exception," Patrick explains, "is balled and potted trees, which must be kept moist."

Open flames, such as candles, also are prohibited.

Patrick offers a few suggestions for both artificial and natural trees and for decorations to help ensure that the holiday season doesn't turn into a fiery nightmare.

Artificial trees: Only plastic trees labeled "flame resistant" by a recognized testing laboratory should be used. Metallic trees, such as the aluminum alloy type, should never be decorated with electric lights. Patrick suggests using a remote floodlight to illuminate the metallic tree.

Natural trees (at home use, not on campus): As a rule of thumb, these trees should not be set up earlier than 10 days prior to Christmas, and should be taken down immediately after Christmas. Cutting off the bottom inch of the trunk will enable the tree to absorb more water and keeps its needles fresher.

The holder should have an always-filled water reservoir. "I also recommend using one of the commercially available products added to the reservoir that may prolong the ability of the tree to absorb water."

The tree should be substantially supported and located in a remote area of a room, where it won't block exit from the room or house.

Lights: Lights used anywhere should be UL approved and checked for safety before installation. This includes checking for cracked or broken sockets, loose plugs or connectors, and bare wires.

Before installing lights, place them in a nonflammable surface and plug them in for 10-15 minutes. Then check for smoking and melting of electrical parts.

No more than 200 miniature lights or 50 larger lights should be connected through one cord.

Limit the use of extension cords as much as possible. Power strips that have an internal fuse are better.

Decorating materials: Using noncombustible materials, such as metal or glass, will lessen the chance of a dangerous fire. Avoid using untreated materials, such as cotton batting, paper, cloth and dried plants, as they ignite easily and burn intensely.

Avoid using polystyrene foam for candle holders or other decorations. Oil paints and flammable liquids, along with open flames, should not be used.

Gift wrappings: They should not be burned in a fireplace, but rather disposed of promptly in a metal trash container.