University bans live decorations, lit menorahs

Residential Property Management advised students about dangerous holiday decorations this week as students decorated for the holiday season.

The rules include a ban on “live decorations” – like Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes – and extension cords for decorations. Lit candles used in menorahs are not allowed, like any other ignited items such as incense or cigarettes, said Nancy Haaga, director of Campus Support Services.

Regulations also state that no decorations can hang from ceilings and no tape can be used on walls or doors. Also, all holiday decorations need to be removed by 9 p.m. on Jan. 15. Potted plants and artificial greenery are allowed to be in dormitory rooms because they are safer than once-living plants.

“You can’t go down and purchase a live Christmas tree that was cut down or cut one down yourself,” Haaga said. “It’s definitely more flammable because once it dries out, its easily flammable material. Whereas the wreaths and things made out of artificial material are flame-retardant.”

Haaga added that despite the increased rules, there will be no additional health and safety inspections.

Alan Etter, spokesperson for the D.C. Fire Department, said everyone has to be careful with holiday lights and flammable materials, such as cut trees and paper decorations. He said a large problem around the holidays occurs when people who get drunk while smoking can set themselves or their apartment on fire.

“We advise that you use one of those artificial trees that are made with materials so that they are not going to catch on fire,” Etter said. “With potted plants, you have to keep them watered and make sure there is constant water in the trays.”

To get the word out, RPM had the guidelines distributed to Residential Advisory Council committees who will disseminate the information to their halls, Haaga said.

Freshman Tim Swenson, RAC president of Thurston Hall, said people seem to be sticking to the rules. Even if students could try to sneak trees into the dorms, most do not feel it is necessary, he said.

“It is almost better to have a fake tree because you can use it year after year,” Swenson said. “While it’s great to have a real tree because of the smell, it is nicer for college students to buy a cheaper tree.”

Despite his support for the decoration rules, Swenson said students celebrating Hanukkah should have the chance to light the candles.

“For a fire safety hazard, of course it’s against the rules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t . light the menorah,” he said. “If someone wants to have a Hanukkah candle ceremony, it should be allowed in the TV area or some place where there is supervision.”

Fraternities and sororities have decorated common spaces in the last few weeks. Pi Kappa Alpha on fraternity row displays a Christmas tree in a corner and next to it on the counter sits an electric menorah.

Sophomore Steve Sciuto, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, said townhouse residents are being cautious about the decorations though. “We hit off the lights at night because you never know what could happen.”

-David Ceasar contributed to this report.

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