The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year and with good reason: festivities, lights, decorations… not to mention all the treats that make most of us go on a diet come January.
Children, in particular, love the lights and all the indoor and outdoor decorations that give the holidays an extra sparkle. But every year we hear of terrible accidents involving such decorations. Christmas trees alone have been known to cause over 13 million dollars worth of fire and property damage every year. This damage doesn’t include accidents with menorah candles, electrical issues with string lights, or kitchen fires!
How can we ensure that our festive days are full of joy and empty of tears?
Trees and Fire Don’t Match
If you are putting up a Christmas tree, make sure it is far away from the fireplace and any candles. For good measure, have a fire extinguisher close by or mark in your mind the closest fire extinguisher to the tree.
When choosing a fake tree, confirm that its label states that it is fire-resistant. Even so, don’t put it near a fireplace or any heating device. Secure its base to make sure your tree is not unsteady and save it from crashing on children… or cats.
If you opted for a live tree, remember that they can be highly flammable due to their sap. Also, remember to water it! Most conifers require cold to thrive. Placing a few ice cubes once a day will go a long way toward making your tree happy.
Avoid Fragile And Inedible Decorations
When it comes to decorations, unbreakable ornaments are invaluable. They will not break and are safe for crawling toddlers and mischievous pets.
Speaking of decorations, remember that young children tend to put everything and anything in their mouths. If you have a toddler at home, it’s best to invest in large, unbreakable ornaments that have no detachable small parts.
If you have any decorations that look like candy but are not, remember that said toddlers like to taste things. Avoid them until your children are old enough to understand what is real food and what is not.
Also, remember that certain plants can be poisonous when ingested: poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can be potentially poisonous. Keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Candles are synonymous with the holidays. But they can also be a fire hazard! Whether you’re using a Kwanzaa kinara, a Haunnukah menorah, or an Advent candle, be sure to keep an eye on the candle’s flame.
Place candles somewhere where children and pets have no access.
Never leave an unattended candle burning; before leaving the house or going to bed, blow them out.
When opening presents and enjoying the presence of your loved ones, make sure you don’t knock candles off the table. Make sure the table or shelf they are on is stable, sturdy, and not wobbly.
Regarding your yard, make sure that you have cleaned any ice from the paths. It’s also good to rake any fallen leaves from garden paths and patios because people may slip on them.
Double-check that tree branches are sturdy and properly trimmed; if they fall, they could drag your Christmas lights with them.
The Fire Is So Delightful
Fire is delightful as long as it stays in the fireplace. Be careful about what you burn in it. Wrapping paper can catch fire instantly and spread fire sparkles.
Don’t burn your live tree at the end of the season in your fireplace; the burnt tree sap may build up on the chimney and clog it. A house reeking of smoke is not quite so delightful anymore.
Another fire hazard comes from overloaded power outlets. If you’re lucky, overloading will only shut off your power. If there is no circuit breaker, however, overloading could cause overheating. An overheated wire tends to melt, leading to fire… and not the delightful kind.
Light, Bulbs, Action
When it comes to lights, indoor lights are different from outdoor ones. Confirm you are using the proper ones for each situation. Don’t try using interior lights in an exterior environment unless the product specifically states the lights can be used outdoors.
When buying new lights, make sure they have been tested by the professionals who made them for safety. The packaging or a quick internet search will tell you if they’ve been lab tested by the ETL/ITSNA or UL.
Because plastic deteriorates over time, take a look at your lights if you have been using the same ones for a few years. Plastic polymerizes with time, making it fragile and exposing the wires underneath. Cracked insulation can lead to sparks; not the best idea when your lights are in contact with a tree branch. Make sure there are no exposed wires and the electric cord is not twisted.
Also, check your bulbs. If any bulbs are broken, change them after taking your lights out of the power socket.
Don’t run light cords at a long distance over the floor: these are accidents waiting to happen. If you’re so committed to tripping up your family, you may as well scatter banana peels around the tree.
Lights for external use are weather- and rain-resistant. When putting them up, don’t use nails or screws. You could drill the cord or wires by accident and damage the cord insulation. Use hooks and strings instead. If you’re plugging in exterior lighting, make sure it’s plugged into a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle) outlet to protect from electrical shock.
If you are putting lights high up, make sure your ladder is safely positioned. It’s good to have another person helping you because bending and stretching on a ladder can be dangerous. It would be a pity to spend your holidays in crutches!
Also, remember to tightly fasten your lights and any outdoor decorations. Winter winds can blow them away and into Santa’s path. Wouldn’t it be a shame to get no presents because Santa was unable to reach your chimney?
Finally, don’t leave your lights on overnight. A simple timer will ensure they burn only for as long as you can enjoy them. Leaving them overnight is a fire hazzard – and pretty bad for the environment.