John_newA carved pumpkin and maybe a scarecrow on the front porch used to be all the decorating you needed on Halloween. But these days more and more people are decking out their yards for All Hallows’ Eve like the Griswolds on Christmas.

“Halloween is becoming the second most decorated holiday after Christmas,” says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL, which certifies outdoors lights among thousands of other products. Here Drengenberg answers your questions about how to keep your Halloween decorations disaster free.

To submit a question to John, email editorial@safebee.com with "Ask John" in the subject line.

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Dear John: I love to string up my yard with orange and purple lights on Halloween. How can I make sure the lights are safe, even when it rains?

Look for the UL mark. This means representative samples have been tested and met the rigorous safety standards of UL. If the UL mark is in red, it means the product has been tested for outdoor use, including exposure to rain and UV light from the sun. If the UL label is green, the lights are suitable for indoor use only.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping your decorations from year to year, but don’t forget to inspect the lights, as well as extension cords and electronic decorations, before putting them out. Look at the wires and sockets when you pull them out of the closet. If they are broken or frayed, throw them out. These decorations are relatively inexpensive and it’s not worth the risk.

Related: 6 Smarter Ways to Light Up Your Home

Dear John: With all the lights and electronic decorations I put in my yard, how can I make sure I’m not overloading the circuits?

With the increased use of LED lights in light strings and other lighted decorations, overloading becomes less of a problem unless you are one who lights up your yard like a Broadway marquee. Most important is to be sure to use outdoor extension cords when decorating outdoors. These cords have been tested for severe weather conditions and usually have the electrical capacity for normal decorating. Look at the labels on the cord and the decorations plugged into it. The sum of the power used by the decorations should not exceed the capacity of the cord.

To get the cords out of the way, you can buy plastic hooks of all kinds at hardware stores and home centers. Never use metal nails or staples since damage to the cords or wires could result in a shock or fire hazard.

If you decorate outdoors, make sure you buy decorations that are suitable for outdoor use. Some are suitable only for indoors.

Related: 8 Signs You May Have a Problem with Your Electrical Wiring

Dear John: I’m nervous about using candles in my pumpkins. Are there safer options?

On Halloween day we see a big increase in fires and burns. Lighted candles are one reason. It’s easy enough and just as pretty to use a glow stick, a flashlight or a battery-operated LED candle inside your pumpkin, and also inside paper bags if you like to line your walkway with paper bag lanterns. It will be a lot safer, and once they’re inside a paper bag you can’t tell the difference.

Avoid using real candles to light your front steps. With packs of little kids running up and down, the flame could burn their costumes.

If you are going to use a real candle to light your pumpkin, a small votive candle is best. Use a long fireplace lighter to light candles inside pumpkins.

Make sure to place candlelit pumpkins, and all candles, on a sturdy surface away from curtains or children’s flowing Halloween costumes. Never leave any lighted candle unattended.

Dear John: What can I do to avoid a house fire on Halloween?

Using candles safely, or using alternatives to candles, and making sure your outdoor lights and electronic decorations are UL certified are key steps.

Keep all decorations away from open flames and heat sources. And never drape fabric or crêpe paper over a light bulb.

This is an exciting time for kids, but take a few seconds to think about safety. A few tips can go a long way.

Related: Quiz: Are You Prepared for a House Fire?

Mary Purcell is a freelance writer and health researcher in Piedmont, Calif., with expertise in policy analysis. She has a master's degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University.