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Holiday Safety: Trees, Lights, Action!

Posted on October 30, 2017

Celebrating the holidays is an important part of the month of December for many Americans.  Whether you are frying latkes for Chanukah, placing ornaments on a tree, or lighting a Kinara for Kwanzaa, you and your family are creating special memories together.

But have you considered the potential hazards associated with putting up holiday lights around the house, climbing ladders, and lighting candles?

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year over 12,000 people visit the emergency room for holiday decorating-related injuries including falls, strains, lacerations, and burns.[1]

We encourage you to review these safety tips to help you and your loved ones prepare for the festivities while minimizing the risk of injuries.

Prepare Your Home

Before you decorate the house, take a few minutes to test your smoke detectors and make sure they function properly.  If you plan to use a ladder to put up lights or any other decorations, be cautious and follow the instructions and warnings.  Additionally, each night before leaving the house or going to bed, turn off all electric decorations including lighting.

After the holiday, carefully put away electric decorations and string lights in a sturdy, hard plastic container.   For best results, store light strings by wrapping them around something a piece of cardboard or wood, then wrap them in a sheet or cloth for protection.

Take Care of the Tree

When it’s time to look for the perfect tree, look for healthy, bright green pine needles.  Once you bring the tree home, be sure to water regularly to reduce fire risk.  Stay away from trees with dry, brown needles!  If you use an artificial tree, be sure it is flame-resistant or flame-retardant.  Whichever type of tree you use, be sure to keep the tree at least 3-4 feet away from heaters or fireplace and use only UL-approved light strings to minimize fire hazards.

Illuminate the Lights

First, be sure that all lighting and extension cords you plan to use outside are weather resistant and UL-rated for outdoor use.  Next, review the instruction manual and follow the correct bulb wattage specifications to avoid fire hazards.  Prior to hanging string lights, inspect each bulb and remove any light strings with loose-fitting connections, broken sockets, or worn wires.  If you find a damaged light, unplug the entire string of lights and replace the bulb per the instruction manual.  Ignoring a broken bulb may cause a whole string of lights to overheat and potentially ignite.  Do not use nails or staples to hang light strings because you could accidentally slice through the wire.  Don’t forget to keep extension cords away from water, even if they designed for outdoor use.  Note that using outdoor lights inside the house can create a fire hazard.  Don’t mix and match lights:  keep outside lights outdoors and inside lights indoors.

Kindle the Candles

Enjoy the warm glow of the candles, but be careful where you place them:  keep candles on a stable, safe surface away from holiday gifts, decorations, trees, furniture and curtains.  If you leave the room or are ready to go to bed, extinguish the candles first.

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[1] Adapted from CPSC https://www.cpsc.gov/content/%E2%80%9Cdeck-the-halls%E2%80%9D-safely-cpsc-estimates-more-than-15000-holiday-decorating-injuries-during

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