In the movies, it’s sometimes portrayed as comical when someone falls off a ladder while stringing Christmas lights, the just-decorated tree falls over, or a festive dinner catches fire on the stove. In real life, though, these and other holiday disasters can cause injuries or even death.
Protect yourself, your loved ones and your home so that your holidays will be merry and bright! Here are some important tips*:
- Use only lights that have a label verifying that they have been tested for safety by a recognized, independent laboratory. Check all lights new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Do not use lights that are damaged.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to the house, trees, or other supportive structures to protect them from wind damage.
- Follow safety instructions for plugging in light strings. Do not overload electrical outlets, extension cords or power strips.
- Turn off lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and touching the tree could cause electrocution. Use only colored spotlights above or beside a metallic tree.
- Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. Curious children may break the candle-shaped glass, which can cut them, or may attempt to drink the liquid, which contains a hazardous chemical.
Trees and Plants
- Decorating an artificial tree? Make sure it is certified as flame resistant
- If you are decorating a real tree, remember:
– Look for a fresh, green tree with needles that do not break or fall off the branches. A shower of falling needles means the tree is too dry.
– The trunk butt should be sticky with resin. Cutting a couple of inches off the trunk will expose fresh wood for better water absorption. Place the tree in a sturdy tree stand and keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors.
- Place all types of trees away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, and out of the way of foot traffic. Do not block doorways. Use thin wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling.
- Keep decorative plants away from children and pets. “Even though many holiday plants are beautiful, they can be very dangerous if ingested,” said Shawn T. Robertson, MD, emergency physician at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “Children are often drawn to the bright colors and shapes. These plants can be toxic or cause severe gastric upset. Some plants to watch out for include mistletoe, holly berries and amaryllis. Keep all plants out of reach of children.”
Candles, Decorations and More
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
- Always use non-flammable holders and place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
- Keep candles away from decorations and wrapping paper.
- Consider using decorative “candles” that have realistic-looking, but artificial “flames.”
- Use ornaments or paper decorations that are flame-resistant or non-combustible. Avoid decorations and trimmings that look like candy or food, as children may try to eat them.
- Once gifts are opened, remove wrapping paper, boxes, etc., from around the tree or near fireplaces and heat sources.
- Never burn wrapping paper or evergreens in the fireplace. A flash fire can result and flare out of control, igniting creosote in the chimney or sending sparks out into a room.
- Avoid wearing loose, flowing clothing near heat sources, such as a stove or candles.
Most importantly, stay alert. Look for potential dangers and correct them. Use common sense and plan for a safe and happy holiday season.
*Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “Holiday Decoration Safety Tips,” https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/611.pdf