No matter what you may celebrate, the holiday season comes with traditions of festive lights and decorations, great food and time spent with family and friends. We assume our homes are safe, and it’s probably the last thing on our minds during this busy time of year. With a hectic schedule, houseguests and added stress, it can be easy to get distracted and forget or compromise on some home safety basics.
Luckily, most accidents in the home are entirely preventable. Check out these tips on how to stay healthy and safe over the holidays.
Be sure to check for freshness when buying a live Christmas tree. A fresh green tree has a noticeable fragrance, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and they don't break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree should be sticky with resin and, when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. A fresher tree presents less of a fire hazard.
The best protection for a tree is moisture. Cut about 2 inches off the trunk to expose a fresh wood base. Place the tree in a stable stand with widespread feet that will hold 2 to 3 liters of water, and remember to top it up daily.
Place your tree a good distance away from any heat sources like fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Ensure that the tree is out of the way of traffic and is not blocking doorways.
Remove natural trees within 10-14 days of use. After that amount of time in a heated building, even the freshest tree will begin to dry out and can create a fire hazard.
If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled “Fire Resistant.”
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged from faulty lights, and can create a risk for electrocution.
Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations when trimming a tree with children or pets in the house. Also avoid using anything that is small enough to be a choking hazard.
Only use lights that are tested and Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified. Be sure that outdoor lights have been certified for that use.
Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) to avoid potential shocks.
When hanging lights outside your home, don’t take chances with heights and ladders. Getting the right holiday ‘look’ may not be worth a trip to the hospital.
Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could potentially short-out and become a fire hazard.
Get into the habit of checking all lights before you hang them outdoors or indoors — even if you've just purchased them. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
Almost half of all home decoration fires are started by candles. Be sure to keep them away from anything potentially flammable, including fresh trees.
Always keep burning candles within sight and extinguish them before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Choose a place where kids and pets cannot reach or knock them over and use non-flammable holders only.
Be sure that all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home have fresh batteries and are in good repair.
Establish a family fire escape plan and be sure to communicate it to any houseguests.
Maintain a three-foot clearance around heating equipment such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heaters.
Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
Always turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result, as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Maintain easily accessible fire extinguishers in your home (ideally one per floor) that are rated A-B-C for all fire types. Check the pressure gauges regularly to ensure that each unit is at maximum capacity. If they fall below optimal levels, replace the disposable type or recharge the permanent type through a reputable dealer.
As with any other time of the year, be sure to pace yourself, don’t overdo it and NEVER get behind the wheel. Also, don’t let your guests drive if they’ve been drinking at all. Use a designated driver, call them a cab or just have them spend the night.
Keep the area around your home free of snow and ice to help avoid any nasty falls and injuries. When shoveling, be sure to warm-up first, lift with your legs and avoid twisting to help save your back.
Most all of these safety tips are common sense, but they’ll help to ensure that your family's holiday season is happy, healthy and hazard-free.