Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

Have a Holly, Jolly and SAFE Christmas

Perhaps you’re entertaining guests, maybe decorating your home, or finishing up some Christmas gift shopping. Whatever the occasion, it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit.

Seasonal decorations, including lights, trees, and wreaths, can help put your household in the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, the winter holidays are also a prime time for residential fires triggered by an upsurge in the energy consumed to power your lighting displays and Christmas trees, as well as the energy spent to prepare holiday feasts and entertain family and friends in your home.

It’s during this time that people are carelessly subjected to a greater risk of turning out to be the victim of a fire or electrical mishaps, such as shock and electrocution. The truth is, most of these accidents could be avoided by merely obeying essential holiday safety tips.

Keep your family safe during the holidays. Twinkly lights, candles, holiday trees and plants, ornaments and other decorations are an important part of your holiday celebrations. Aside from being festive, your holiday decorating can help your children feel connected to family traditions.

With a little thought and planning, it’s easy to make sure that the holidays will be merry and bright.

First, prior to use, read the manufacturer’s instructions for each item to understand how to use it properly. In addition, follow these best practices described below to ensure your holiday lights and decorations are installed correctly.

J&A South Park wants you and your family to enjoy a wonderful and safe holiday season, and whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three, we’re excited to share in the holiday spirit.

Fact: Every year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 persons for injuries such as falls, cuts and shocks related to holiday lights, electrical decorations and Christmas trees (CPSC).

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches

Tree buying 101
Prior to purchasing a live Christmas tree, you should perform a three-part stress test, recommends a spokesperson for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: A fresh tree is green, bears needles that resist being pulled off and do not snap when bent, has a trunk bottom that’s sticky with resin and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not shed many needles.

Tree safety 101
Nothing says Christmas like the smell of a Christmas tree in the house. Here are a few tips to help assure that your tree is free of safety hazards.

  • Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.Trim away branches as necessary to set the tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet.
  • Christmas trees can’t take the heat. Fireplaces, vents, and radiators can rapidly dry out live trees and increase the risk of flammability. A dry Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames in about 30 seconds. Moreover, the National Christmas Tree Association tells homeowners that watering your tree every day significantly reduces the risk of its catching fire. Also, safety experts tell us you might also want to keep a bucket of water next to your tree.
  • Hang ornaments with extra care. If you have small children, take extra care to keep away from sharp or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children and avoid trimmings that look like candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Watch out for those irritants. To avoid eye and skin irritation, wear gloves when decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” To avoid lung irritation, follow container directions carefully while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

Fact: Roughly 300 Christmas trees catch fire each year. A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of these fires. Don’t become a holiday statistic.

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough

Christmas tree lights deserve your special attention.

    • Do your lights pass the UL test? Don’t use holiday lights unless they have cleared the strict safety tests conducted by Underwriters Lab or another established test facility. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use. For example, UL’s green holographic label signifies the lights are safe for indoor use only. Also, never connect more than three strands of lights together.
    • Throw out damaged sets of lights. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out any such damaged lights.
    • Never attempt to extend the length of an extension cord by connecting it with another extension cord. Use an extension cord that is long enough for your needs. Also, don’t place power cords or extension cords in high traffic areas or under carpets, rugs or furniture.
    • Avoid using fragile ornaments. Delicate glass ornaments can fall and break. Your pets could eat the shards. You or your children could unknowingly walk across the broken debris, leading to serious injury. Try to hang unbreakable or plastic ornaments.
    • Bubbling lights? Yep, these still-popular bubbling lights with their bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt kids to break the glass, which can cut, and even attempt to drink the liquid, which contains a hazardous chemical.
    • Never use lit candles to decorate your tree.
    • Indoor lights should never touch drapes, furniture or carpeting.
    • True, waking up to the warm glow of a lit Christmas tree will make you smile, but don’t leave the lights on for Santa. Leaving holiday lights on unattended is not only a waste of electricity, but it’s a major fire hazard. Always make sure to turn your Christmas tree lights off when you leave your home or when you go to bed.
    • Don’t forget about those outside lights. We love seeing houses dressed in holiday lights. But as pretty and rewarding as the after-effect is, safety should always be a priority. Don’t be like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation.
    • Ladder safety. When decorating outside, keep ladders and decorations away from overhead power lines. As a rule of thumb, keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from any power lines. Ladders should be on level, firm ground, with leg levelers added if on an incline. They should also be able to carry both your weight and any objects you’re hauling. You’ll want to make sure to use the correct ladder height, ensuring your ladder extends at least 3 feet past the edge of the roof.
    • Use the proper outlet. You want lights to shine, not sparks to fly. Outdoor lights and inflatable decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCIs help to prevent electric shock by breaking the circuit when differences in the currents of hot and neutral wires occur. Handy portable GFCIs for outdoor use can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.
    • Use heavy-duty extension cords and only use cords outdoors if they are designated for outdoor use. As with your indoor lights, avoid overloading extension cords by using no more than three sets of standard lights per cord.
    • Secure lights, decorations and cords to prevent wind damage. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them. Note: If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although the label doesn’t mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

A mug of hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire sure sounds like the Christmas holidays. But there a few tips to make sure that the fire doesn’t get out of control and jump out of the fireplace.

Before lighting any fire in your fireplace, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from the fireplace area. Also, check to see if the flue is open.

Burning those leftover evergreens in the fireplace can be dangerous. When dry, greens burn like tinder. Flames can flare out of control or up the chimney to ignite creosote deposits. Likewise, don’t burn wrapping paper in your fireplace. Paper can catch fire very quickly and cause flash fires. Your best bet – recycle your paper.

Always keep a screen in front of the fireplace when a fire is burning.

Lastly, stockings by the fire really should be hung with care to avoid danger; better yet, find a different spot for them.

Light a candle

Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room or leave the house. Also, keep your candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Choose a place where kids and pets can’t reach or knock over burning candles. Lit candles should also be placed at least 12 inches away from flammable items, including trees, decorations, curtains, and furniture.

If you do have small kids running about, you might do well to avoid using traditional candles altogether and consider using battery-operated candles instead.

Here’s a few more tip for Christmas regarding the kids

Pick up wrappings, ribbons and bows. All the trimmings for gifts are beautiful, but they are a triple threat for kids. Prevent possible suffocation, choking and fire hazards by gathering wrappings and packaging pieces as the gifts are unwrapped.

Traditional holiday plants with their colorful berries are quite beautiful – and tempting for little fingers on the lookout for something to pop into a mouth. Mistletoe, poinsettia, and holly are typical targets. The American Association of Poison Control Center says while they are not poisonous, the plants can cause nausea, diarrhea, tingling or burning of the mouth if eaten.

As we’ve noted, kids naturally put anything in their mouths. Things like tiny figurines, wreaths with small decorations, potpourri, and hard candies and nuts are choking hazards. A good rule of thumb is anything small enough to pass through a toilet paper roll holder is a potential choking hazard.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a dog? a cat?

Not unlike hazards for small kids, many of the safety threats we’ve pointed out here can be applied to our family pets. Such things as glass ornaments, artificial snow, lit candles, Christmas lights, and electrical cords, loose wrapping paper and gift decorations — all can become dangerous for our pets.

No pet parent wants their furry friends to end up at the emergency vet during the holidays or, worse yet, face a costly surgery. Take a step back and try to see things from your pet’s point of view, taking note of all those items they could get into to.

Create an Emergency plan

This should always be the case, so if you don’t have one, make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out anywhere in the home. See that each family member knows what to do. Practice your plan!

Post-Holiday Clean Sweep

Get rid of your tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or your garage or placed outside against the house.

You should check with your local community to find a tree recycling program.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Now that we’ve presented some Holiday Decorating Safety Tips to make your holidays all the merrier, the management and staff at J&A South Park wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season!