Holiday Safety Reminders
Keep your holiday peaceful with these holiday safety reminders.
Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
An average of 200 home fires start because of Christmas trees every year, the National Fire Protection Association reports, resulting in deaths, injuries and millions of dollars worth in property damage. Holiday safety starts with the tree:
- When you choose a real tree, opt for one that is green (no brown needles!). Cut off about 2 inches of the trunk then put the tree in a sturdy water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water, and check often to make sure the tree is “drinking” the water. (If the water isn’t going down the tree trunk may not be reaching it and the tree could be drying out, making it more flammable.)
- If you’re going with an artificial tree, be sure to choose one that is fire-resistant (look for a label), and remember that trees with built-in electrical systems should also have the label of an independent test laboratory that is approved to perform safety testing, such as the Underwriters Laboratories. (See summer electrical safety tips too.)
- Anchor the tree to prevent children or pets from knocking it over.
If you have young children, avoid putting sharp or breakable decorations on your tree. For infants and toddlers, keep all the tree trimmings out of reach as some could be choking hazards or made with lead or other materials that could be toxic if baby were to put it in his mouth. Recycle your real tree after the holidays, making sure to remove it from the house when it starts dropping needles.
Other holiday decorations cause about 840 home fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Of those, 36% are caused by candles. Remember to keep candles away from anything that can catch fire and extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep. Be sure the wick ember is no longer glowing.
It may seem obvious but, only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors. And verify that the holiday lights have been tested and approved by an independent safety-testing laboratory.
- Check lights for bare wires or loose bulb connections and replace any damaged light sets.
- When replacing bulbs, unplug the light string and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb.
- Connect no more than three stands of mini-light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect.
- Use no more than three light sets on one extension cord.
- Use a timer.
- Position extension cords along the wall so people and pets won’t trip over them, but do not run cords under rugs.
- Make sure you turn off all the lights on trees and all decoration lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
Also, be sure to keep a watchful eye on holiday candles. Keep them safe in a sturdy stand away from the tree, decorations and other things that can burn. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, candles are a leading cause of holiday house fires. Make sure to put them out when unattended and keep out of reach of children.
Eggnog, Christmas Cookies and Pie, Oh My
Another leading cause of house fires all year round is unattended cooking and there’s lots of cooking going on over the holidays!
- If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Keep anything that can catch fire (oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, towels, etc.) away from your stovetop, including your apron or any long-sleeved shirt.
- Utilize the back burners as much as possible so that any spills will not fall directly on anyone.
- Keep little ones out of the kitchen while you’re cooking and certainly away from the stove area.
- Give older children kitchen chores that won’t require them to be near the stove or oven, such as mixing ingredients, setting the table, or arranging veggies on a tray.
By The Fireplace With Care
Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean the fireplace and chimney annually — maintenance is crucial to prevent creosote buildups and potential fires.
- Keep all flammable decor a safe distance away from the fireplace.
- Never leave a fire unattended, especially with kids in the same room.
- Extinguish the fire fully before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Dispose of cool ashes in a tightly covered metal container, and place it outdoors, at least 10 feet from the home and any other nearby buildings, in case the embers are still hot.
Gifting with Care and Safety
Giving to children is a joy for the giver, seeing the smile on that cute little face. And the gift should be fun and safe for the children. More than 250,000 children were seriously injured in toy-related incidents in 2017.
- Choose toys in the correct age range. The age rating on toys is for safety, not based the child’s intellect or ability.
- Children under age 3 should not receive toys that have small parts, including small batteries, which could be choking hazards.
- Children under age 10 should not receive toys that need to be plugged into an outlet.
- If the gift is a bike or scooter or other riding toys, remember to include the appropriate safety gear — helmets, knee pads, etc. as needed.
- Check an updated recall list to make sure the toy you want to gift is not on it.
Wrapped up in the Season
Immediately discard wrapping paper, plastic bags, tape, gift bags and ribbons after opening presents as they can pose strangulation, suffocation, and choking hazards for young children or cause a fire, if near a flame. Most wrapping paper and ribbons are nontoxic, but certain foils and colored gift wraps might contain lead, so it’s best not to let babies chew on them.
Musical holiday cards (and some toys, remote controls, flameless candles, and other gadgets) contain button batteries. If a child swallows these batteries, it could get stuck in the esophagus and when mixed with saliva can severely burn the esophagus in as little as 2 hours. Call 911 immediately if a child swallows one.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2019 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.
We originally published this post in December 2015. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.