‘Tis the season to be jolly and it’s the time of year for gift-giving, celebratory decorations, great food, and cozy warm homes. However, the most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most dangerous times of the year. The holidays can be one of the most common times for fire-related emergencies and personal injuries, as well as a variety of other hidden dangers that can come with the season. Below is a list of safety tips that you can use this holiday season to keep your home and family safe and enjoying this fun and festive time of the year.
- Trees – Dried-out trees are a serious fire hazard, so when selecting a tree, be sure to choose a fresh one. Fresh trees are green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and have sticky resin on the trunk butt. When setting up the tree, cut a few inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood and keep the stand filled with water to keep the tree from drying out. Trim the tree’s branches as necessary. If using an artificial tree, check to make sure it is fire-resistant. Place trees away from fireplaces and heaters, and do not block traffic or doorways with them.
- Lights – Only use lights that have been tested for safety, and check all lights before use. Be sure that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections, and check for broken or loose bulbs and replace as necessary. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree, as it can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and create an electrocution hazard. Be sure your outdoor lights have been certified for outdoor use, fasten them securely, and be cautious when hanging or removing them. Remember to turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
- Decorations – Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials, and choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair" and follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays. When using candles, never use them to decorate a tree, keep them away from evergreens and other decorations, use non-flammable holders, and place them where they will not be knocked over.
- Fireplaces – Before lighting a fire, check to be sure the flue is open and all decorations and anything else has been removed from the area. Inspect your fireplace and chimney prior to use and have them cleaned if necessary. Use a screen, and be careful with “fire salts”. Never burn gift wrapping or other paper, as a flash fire can result when papers ignite quickly and burn intensely, and use only dry, seasoned wood instead.
- In the Kitchen – Never leave cooking unattended. Keep the stovetop and oven clean and clear of flammable materials and other clutter. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes and roll up sleeves when cooking. Fully cook meats and poultry, wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly, and refrigerate food and leftovers which require properly. Use caution and follow instructions when using a turkey fryer. Be careful of scalds and burns while preparing food.
- With children – Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child and read instructions before allowing the child to play with them. Beware of toys and decorations with small pieces or strings, as these can create choking and strangulation hazards. Keep children out of the way when cooking or serving food, and remove lighters, matches, and candles from their reach. Watch children closely to avoid them coming in contact with alcohol or tobacco, and remember that other homes you visit may not be childproof.
- Other safety tips – Be cautious when using heaters and keep them a safe distance from people and other objects. Be sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly. Remember your escape plan and “stop, drop, and roll” in case of fire, and have a fire extinguisher readily available.
Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Fire Administration