The winter holidays are a time for fun, family and festivities, and that often means more cooking, more decorating, more entertaining, and less time to make sure that everything is up to par. Christmas trees, candles and holiday lights are responsible for hundreds of fires and accidents every year. Talk about bah humbug! Before you deck your halls, make sure you're following these tips to keep your whole family safe and celebrating this holiday season.

 

Decorating

  • Inspect your holiday decorations carefully to make sure there are no loose or frayed wires. Choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
  • Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Do not overload extension cords.
  • Always unplug lights before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
  • Don’t use clips or nails that puncture your light cord’s wire insulation.
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations when you head out for the day and before you go to bed.
 

Entertaining

  • Never, never, never leave your stovetop unattended when you are cooking.
  • If you must smoke, do it outside, and make sure your guests do the same.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and the reach of children.
  • Test your smoke alarms frequently and especially before a party. 
 

Tree safety

  • Place your tree in a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • If you have a real tree, keep it moist by watering frequently.  
  • If you're decorating your tree with electrical lights, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the lights (i.e., how many strands can be plugged in to one another, etc.) Toss out any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
  • Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. If you have any other candles decorating the room, make sure they are far away from the tree.
  • Keep your tree at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators.
  • Keep light cords organized so that they are not running across doorways or blocking exits.  
  • Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
 

Candle safety

  • Candle fires in the home are reported to a U.S. fire department every 34 minutes. If you are decorating with candles this holiday season, make sure it is far away from any item that can burn such as furniture, mattresses, bedding, curtains or other decorations. 
  • Use sturdy, safe candle holders.
  • Protect candle flames with glass chimneys or containers.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Keep children and pets away from burning candles.
  • Use a flashlight, not a candle, for emergency lighting.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Photo: MIKECNY

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