Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content


NIH Holiday Decorating Guidance

The Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services, wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable winter holiday season. To that end, we are disseminating the following information to help us all celebrate safely here at the NIH. Much of this is equally appropriate for your home.

First, a dramatic video to illustrate one primary holiday fire hazard, natural trees: https://www.nist.gov/video/christmas-tree-fire-watered-tree-vs-dry-tree

When can trees be displayed? From Monday, November 30 through Monday, January 4.

What type of trees are allowed?

  • Corridors and stairways in all buildings: No trees allowed.
  • Laboratories, assembly areas (such as auditoriums and conferences rooms with a posted occupant load of 50 or more), The Children's Inn, The Family Lodge, Buildings 15H and 15I, and dormitory areas in Building 60: Artificial trees only.
  • Patient care units and clinics: Balled or artificial trees only.
  • Other areas protected by fire sprinkler systems and Building 15 group duplexes occupied as residences: Cut, balled, or artificial trees.
  • Other areas not protected by fire sprinkler systems: Balled or artificial trees only.


Tree limitations:

  • Artificial trees must be labeled as fire retardant.
  • Natural trees (cut or balled) may not exceed five feet in height and must be kept watered daily.
  • Cut trees must have the trunk freshly trimmed just before display.
  • Balled trees must have the root ball and soil wrapped in burlap.
  • Trees must be promptly removed by January 3, or earlier if dried out.

Other guidance:

  • Egress: Place trees, lights, and decorations so as not to obstruct the path to any exit.
  • Candles: Never use open-flame candles, including for menorahs.
  • Decorations: Use only non-combustible or fire-retardant items; prohibited on fire-rated doors.
  • Lights: Use only listed lights with wiring in good condition; do not hang on sprinkler heads or pipes; unplug at end of each work day; and never use lights on metal artificial trees.
  • Electric: Use power strips and not extension cords; do not run under carpets or other materials/equipment.


Additional guidance is available through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on holiday fire safety: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Winter-holidays. The requirements above are based on the NFPA Fire Code and apply to NIH-owned facilities; questions may be directed to the Division of the Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487. For guidance in leased facilities, contact the local fire marshal or fire department.  


​​​​​​​​What's New

​Stay Informed

  • Security.nih.gov
    Updated information on Safety and Security issues at the NIH
  • Traffic.nih.gov
    The latest info on projects that impact traffic around the NIH and resources to help you with your commute
  • Alert.nih.gov
    When Emergencies Happen, Stay Connected with AlertNIH
  • IDBadge.nih.gov
    The new ID badge process for employees and contractors
  • News2Use
    Information and updates about ORS services to the NIH community
  • ORS Annual Report 2019
    A look at ORS accomplishments in 2019