Before you light the candles or deck the halls, read these holiday safety tips, so you can enjoy a safe celebration and a happy new year.
The winter holidays are some of the most joyous and exciting, but they can also be some of the most dangerous. Between home fires, poisons, and ladder injuries, homeowners need to be extra careful when decking the halls or setting up their menorahs.
Before you begin decorating (if you haven't already), here are 10 tips you need to know that will keep you and your loved ones safe this (and every) holiday season!
Tip #1: Safe glowing!
Candles are a staple of winter holidays, and according to the National Fire Protection Association, December is the peak time for candle fires. To lower your home's risk, place your menorahs and kinaras on a non-flammable surface or on aluminum foil that's on a sturdy, flat surface. This prevents candles from tipping over and starting a fire. Make sure to pick a place that is out of reach of curious children and pets!
Also, use a long-tipped lighter to prevent any potential burns. Never leave your lit candles unattended or walk with a lit candle, and since half of home fire deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., extinguish your flames fully before turning in for the night.
Tip #2: Give your decorations some space
Almost half of all holiday decoration fires start because a decoration was too close to a heat source. To safeguard your family and your home, keep candles at least a foot away from anything flammable, your trees at least three feet away from any heat source (including candles), and kids and pets away from all of the above.
Tip #3: Lose the lights, not the home
Before even plugging in your electrical decorations, examine them for frayed wires and loose or missing bulbs. Replace broken bulbs and throw out the entire string if you see any exposed wires. It's better to lose a string of lights than to lose your home to a fire. Double check to ensure that your electric decorations have been approved by an independent testing lab, such as UL (Underwriter Laboratories) and ETL (Intertek).
Tip #4: No more than three strands
"The Rule of Three" applies to incandescent lights as connecting more than three strands can trip a circuit, blow a fuse, or start a fire. Don’t overload your electrical outlets and never plug in more than one high-wattage appliance per outlet. Forty-four percent of Christmas tree fires started with electrical distribution or lighting equipment problems, so once again, turn off your lights and candles before heading to bed.
Tip #5: Be nice to your power cords
Lights aren't the only fire hazard when it comes to decorating. Most light strands connect to extension cords, which can also be frayed or damaged. This not only increases the risk of home fires but can also give you quite a shock. Keep cords in good working order by not pinching them between furniture, squeezing them in windows or doors, placing them under rugs, or attaching them to walls or siding with nails or staples.
Tip #6: Take your decorating outside (but only for 90 days)
Outside lights require special love and care. Since exterior decorations are exposed to the elements, they can suffer from weather damage and critter attacks, and keeping them up longer than 90 days may drastically increase the wear-and-tear. This may annoy your neighbors, but it can also cause wires to fray and potentially burn.
Tip #7: Prevent your trees from becoming kindling
All trees are potential kindle, but you can help to prevent a real or artificial tree from catching fire by following these simple rules:
- When shopping for a natural tree, see if it's losing needles excessively. If so, continue the search.
- Place the tree at least three feet away from your heat sources, including candles.
- Keep your tree hydrated by adding water to it once it's in the stand. Continue to add water daily.
- Use appropriate lighting, and never use candles on trees.
- Buy flame-resistant or flame-retardant decorations, including your tree (if artificial).
- When the tree begins to lose its needles excessively, it's time to kick it to the curb.
Also, don't block a doorway with your tree, so you have a clear exit in case of a fire.
Tip #8: Practice ladder safety while decorating
The Consumer Product Safety Commissions estimates more than 200 people per day visit the emergency room with injuries related to holiday decorating in November and December. Keep yourself out of the hospital by placing the ladder on stable ground, never standing on the top rung, moving the ladder rather than leading too far, and wearing appropriate clothing (fit pants, tied and clean shoes, etc.)
Tip #9: Invite your smoke alarms to the party
Whether you're frying latkes, cooking chicken and sausage gumbo, or baking cookies, the winter holidays are prime time for cooking fires. Keep your loved ones safe by checking your smoke alarms.
Test your alarms (even hardwired detectors) to ensure they're functional, and if you're using battery-operated detectors, not only test the batteries but also keep an extra set around, just in case your units start to chirp. This simple step can save someone’s life.
Tip #10: Leave poison off the menu
Winter holidays demand an extra level of attention with poisonous materials around the house. Wash your hands after hanging lights (which have lead in the strands) and keep the holly and mistletoe out of reach of children and animals. Head over to the National Capital Poison Center for additional holiday poison safety information.
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