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Environmental Health & Safety

River Campus and Off-Campus Guidelines for Safe Holiday Decorations

There has been an increasing tendency in recent years for student residents, faculty and staff to decorate their individual rooms, offices and residential facilities for holidays.  There are numerous fire safety-related hazards that can be created by such decorations.  Policies concerning holiday decorations may vary dependent upon the type of building construction, occupancy and fire detection and suppression equipment utilized.  The following are a number of holiday decoration guidelines for Off-Site Housing and River Campus buildings:


  1. The use of natural trees (cut or alive), natural wreaths, boughs, or greenery are prohibited except as approved by the Fire Marshal because of its fire potential and rapid flame spread.
  2. Only use artificial trees, wreaths, boughs, garland or greenery labeled as fire resistant or flame retardant (UL 2358) are permitted.
  3. Artificial trees may be metallic or non-metallic.
  4. Do not place electric lights on metallic trees.  Remote spotlights are recommended for use with metal trees to avoid an electrical hazard.
  5. Christmas trees and related decorations are not permitted in corridors, aisles, stairways or passageways. 
  6. Trees and related decorations are not allowed to obstruct the usual view of exit signs or any other life safety device (i.e., fire extinguisher, pull station, horn/strobe, sprinkler head or piping, etc.).
  7. The following untreated combustible materials are prohibited for use in holiday decorations – hay or straw, bamboo, dry moss, wood shavings, dry leaves, wood back, corn stalks and corn shucks, saw dust, tumbleweed, flammable powders or liquids, plastic sheeting/pallets, untreated cotton batting, flock, paper streamers or confetti.
  8. For holiday decorations, use plastic or foil decorations such as satin balls, plastic icicles, and holiday ribbon.  Limited use of spray snow and tinsel are also permissible.
  9. Combustible materials may not be placed on (more than 5% of) the surface of interior 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.
  10. Posting of resident names is permitted on a single or 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Displaying or hanging paper decoration shall not be permitted unless they are non-combustible or limited-combustible, such as foil wrapping. No paper wrapping is allowed. Approved non-combustible items cannot be hung from sprinklers, smoke detectors, emergency lights or any life safety equipment.


  1. Battery-operated LED Strip lighting is not allowed.
  2. Every LED electric light set used must bear the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) label and be identified for indoor use.
  3. All holiday LED lights shall be turned off before leaving the area or going to sleep.
  4. The use of holiday lights, electric ornaments and extension cords in corridors and over exit doors is prohibited.  Wiring shall not be strung through doors or ceilings or placed under carpeting.
  5. No extension cords shall be used - only 1 UL (UL 1363 listed) power strip can be used.  No piggybacking (multiple power strips plugged into each other), cube taps and the use of flexible (twisty) power strips shall not be allowed.  If possible, plug directly into a power outlet.
  6. No more than three (3) sets of holiday lights shall be connected together.
  7. Before use, light strings should be carefully checked to ensure there are no loose sockets and wires are not frayed or damaged.
  8. 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.
  9. Light strings should not be attached to walls or molding with staples, tacks, nails or paper tape. Use electrical tape or string them with cup-type hooks.



  1. The use of candles, lanterns, oil lamps or any type of other open flames in prohibited.  Refer to the Open Flames, Candle Guidelines. As an option, electrical candles may be used.
  2. Fire and smoke doors SHALL NOT be decorated.
  3. Decorations on other doors shall not obstruct views through door vision panels.


These are guidelines only. For specific questions, please contact the University Fire Marshal’s Office at 275-3243.


Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 10/17/2022. Disclaimer.