The holiday season is here again, and it’s time to pull out the decorations and prepare for the festivities. But before you start to deck your halls, take a few minutes to check out the decorations and avoid any scrooge-like problems.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year around 12,500 people are treated for falls, cuts and shocks from holiday lights, trees and decorations. An additional 1,200 people are hurt and another 150 die annually in the 11,600 fires caused by candles during the holiday season. Property loss from those fires is estimated to be $173 million. So it pays to follow a few common-sense steps for a carefree holiday season.
If you’re using lights of any kind, inside or out, check them carefully before you plug in. Even if you just purchased the item, inspect the wires and sockets. If wires look old, brittle, cracked, frayed or compromised in any way, or if sockets are cracked or broken, or there is a loose connection, discard the lights. When replacing any burned out bulbs, make sure the new bulb is the correct wattage.
Make sure all of your holiday lights and decorations bear the mark of a recognized testing lab like UL to show they meet safety standards. Also check the package information to determine if lights are approved for usage inside, outside or both. Never plug more than 3 strands of lights into an extension cord, and use a UL or ETL rated extension cord designated for indoor or outdoor use.
When hanging exterior lights, use plastic clips or hooks designed for use with light strings. Never tack them up with metal staples. Use caution when hanging lights by using the proper ladder and having a helper.
The soft glow of candlelight is synonymous with many holiday celebrations. For setting a warm holiday atmosphere, or as a religious symbol, the candle is an integral part of the season. But be sure to use candles safely to avoid fire.
Never leave a lit candle unattended, especially in a drafty place, like near a heating vent. Place the candle away from any combustible materials like plastic, fabric, evergreen trees and other plants. Keep candle wicks trimmed to 1/4 inch before you light them, and only burn for one hour per inch of candle diameter. Tapers or pillar candles should be disposed of when they burn down to two inches, and jar candles are done when there is one inch of wax at the bottom. Don’t forget to extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Gently blow on the flame or use a candle snuffer to keep from spattering hot wax.
You may also consider using flameless candles. These battery powered candles offer the same light intensity and come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, including a flickering light feature. Flameless candles give you all the atmosphere of a real candle with none of the fire hazards.
If you prefer a real tree, shop carefully. Check the tree for freshness by looking for nice green needles that bend instead of breaking, and are firmly attached to the branch. Bump the tree on the ground a couple of times to look for excessive needle drop which means the tree has died and is a fire hazard.
The trunk should have sticky resin at the bottom, and always put a fresh cut on the tree right before you bring it into the house. When you put the tree up, make sure it always has plenty of fresh water. Place it away from fireplaces, radiators, heat vents and doorways.
Artificial trees can also be a fire hazard if not used properly. Only purchase a fire resistant artificial tree, and just like a real tree, keep it away from the fireplace or any home heat source. If the tree is pre-lit, check wires, lights, sockets and plugs for potential hazards. These are light strands and you should use the same precautions as all of your other holiday lights. Never use lights with a metallic tree.
Tree decorations should always be made of a non-combustible or flame resistant material. If you have small children or pets around, choose ornaments that are not sharp or breakable and with no moving parts. Don’t put edible ornaments, breakable ornaments, or anything that could mistakenly be eaten on the lower half of your tree. Avoid using tinsel or garlands made of tinsel which can cause serious problems when chewed and swallowed by pets or little ones.