The holidays are here again, and all you need is one more thing to worry about—like safety. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 8,700 people end up in the emergency room with holiday-related injuries every year. Property damage and death also rank right up there, with 400 Christmas tree fires per year, causing 20 deaths, 70 injuries and $15 million in property loss and damage. Candle-related fires make up 10,000 fires per year.
With a little extra planning, you can ensure that your holiday season will be safe and accident-free, leaving more energy for dealing with family, shopping and cooking.
• Make sure your live tree is green and moist, that the trunk is sticky with resin, and the pine needles are difficult to pull from the branches. The needles also shouldn’t break when bent. Needles shouldn’t abandon ship when branches are bounced.
• Keep your tree away from the fireplace and other heat sources.
• Place the tree away from heavy traffic areas.
• Buy only fire-resistant artificial trees.
• Anchor the tree firmly to the stand.
• Keep pets away from Christmas tree water, as it may contain toxic fertilizer. Stagnant tree water is also a breeding ground for bacteria.
• Watch strings of lights—children can strangle on them and pets can chew them. Hang them high and hide or cover the cords near the ground.
• If you have pets, consider forgoing the tinsel. If swallowed, it can become lodged in the intestines and cause obstructions.
• If you have small children, consider using larger Styrofoam or plastic tree decorations. The glass kind can break and cause cuts, and the smaller ones can get stuck in the throat and cause choking.
• Consider placing your tree in an interior room so it’s not visible from the street, which can be a message to would-be burglars.
• Use timers for tree and window lights so they come on and turn off automatically, especially if you’re out of the house a lot during the holidays.
• NEVER use lighted candles on the tree.
• Use flame-resistant and non-combustible materials.
• If you have small children, place bowls of miniature pine cones, potpourri, small ornaments, hard candy and nativity scenes with small pieces high and out of reach. These all can cause choking and their bright colors and shininess are irresistible.
• Place poinsettias high also, as consuming large amounts can cause cramping and diarrhea. If they’re in a heavy decorative pot, a curious toddler can pull it over.
• Forgo the mistletoe and holly. If ingested, mistletoe can be fatal, and at the very least, will cause cramping and severe diarrhea.
• Watch the decorative candle. Many a dog’s wagging tail has knocked a burning candle to the ground. And if you have pet birds, candles produce fumes that can be harmful to them.
• Use lights that are tagged and certified tested for safety.
• Get rid of old damaged sets.
• Use no more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord.
• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
• Outdoors, use only lights that have been certified for this use.
• When using a ladder to hang lights outdoors, make sure the base of the ladder is free from clutter. Rest the ladder on a solid, level surface. Never use a ladder outside in high wind.
• Things to keep out of reach of pets: chocolate; yeast dough; leftovers and garbage, specifically poultry bones; foil and cellophane.