Risk Management Services

A Unit of the Business Affairs Division

Holiday Decoration Guidelines

In order to minimize the potential fire hazards associated with holiday season decorations, the following guidelines should be observed. Please pass this information along to personnel in your department. If there are questions, please contact Risk Management at 621-1790.

  • Risk Management Services strongly recommends against the use of live or cut holiday trees in University buildings. See below and contact Risk Management Services for more information on the use of holiday trees in holiday decorating.
  • This year in particular we encourage you to be creative and NOT use lights but instead colorful ornaments to take the place of lights. However, if you wish to continue to do so, use only U.L. listed holiday lighting strands and follow manufacturer's recommendations on lengths of strands to be plugged into each other.  Please inspect all light cords and extension cords before use. Do not staple or nail strands of lights to attach to walls or ceilings, use tape instead. Only heavy-duty extension cords should be used for decorations, and they must be taken out of service after the holiday season. Make sure light cords are free from damage or fraying. No multi-plug adapters may be used. We recommend power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker if there are not enough outlets.
  • 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. Efforts should also be made to remove holiday decorations before personnel leave for the University Holiday closure.
  • No items may be attached to or hung from sprinkler heads or sprinkler system piping. This is a particularly important requirement because of the potential for breaking the heads, pipes or pipe hangers.
  • 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.
  • All decorations must 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.
  • 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!"

Holiday Trees - General

  • All holiday trees must be located so as not to obstruct exiting, fire extinguishers, sprinkler heads, exit signs, or fire alarm pull stations.
  • Trees are allowed in University building only during the first three weeks of December.
  • Cut trees and/or live trees are NOT allowed in Residence Halls or anywhere in the Arizona Health Science Center.

Holiday Tree Lights

  • All holiday tree lights must bear the UL label and should only be used in accordance with their rated application (indoor or outdoor).
  • 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. Lights are inexpensive and it is safer to replace the defective equipment than repair it.
  • Do not plug lights into an overloaded circuit. Multi-plug adapters are prohibited in university buildings. A power strip with a fuse or integral circuit breaker must be used when extra outlets for tree lights are needed.
  • Tree lights must be unplugged (not just turned off) at the end of the day and over weekends.
  • Any time tree lights are on, the tree should not be left unattended.

Artificial Holiday Trees

  • Strings of electrical lights are only permitted on non-metallic artificial trees.

Cut/Live Holiday Trees

  • Cut or live holiday trees are only allowed in some University buildings during the holiday season. Check with Risk Management Services before you set up a tree in your work area.
  • Cut or live holiday trees are only allowed in the public areas of buildings, such as main or floor lobbies. They may not be placed in assembly areas, such as large classrooms or auditoriums without special permission from Risk Management Services.
  • Strings of lights or other electric decorations are not permitted on cut or live trees. Indirect lighting sources are acceptable.
  • It is strongly recommended that cut trees be treated by either spraying or dipping (preferred) in a flame retardant solution. Recipe: 9 oz borax, 4 oz boric acid, 1 gallon water, and 1/2 teaspoon low suds detergent).
  • All cut or live trees must be removed from University buildings prior to the annual Holiday closure.

Thank you for your assistance. From all of us at Risk Management Services, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!