Holidays are meant to be merry and bright but all the added decorations and such can also increase the chances of fire hazards and other issues that could darken even the brightest of holidays. Putting safety first on your list can mean a holly jolly holiday for all.
Just like Santa checks his list twice, you should double-check smoke alarms before the holidays begin. As fires are more likely to occur in December and January, smoke alarms play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. Make sure smoke detectors are working and that the batteries are fully charged and connected.
Christmas trees make a wonderful addition to any holiday décor, but they are also responsible for an increase in home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 160 home fires start with Christmas trees each year.
If a live tree is a holiday must, make sure you choose one that is fresh, as a dried-out tree is more flammable. Look for a tree with bright green needles that do not fall off when touched or are already falling off the branches. To keep your tree fresh and hydrated, be sure to water it every day. The longer it drops needles on your living room floor, the dryer it becomes. Once a tree is dry it can easily catch fire, so discard it immediately.
And while you want that tree to be in the perfect spot in your home, make sure it does not block an exit. In a quarter of Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. Situate the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, heaters, candles, heat vents or lights. And while it may go without saying, never decorate the tree with real, lit candles. If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire-resistant”.
One of the brightest parts of Christmas is the lights. To be safe, check the labels to make sure they’re flame-retardant, note whether they are intended for indoor or outdoor use and are labeled from a recognized testing laboratory. Replace or remove any lights that have worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Don’t connect more strands than the manufacturer recommends. Be sure to turn off the lights any time you are going to leave the house or when you go to bed.
Candles may make the atmosphere more inviting, but having open flames around all the festive decor makes them more hazardous, too. According to the NFPA, the two peak days for candle fires are Christmas and Christmas Eve. Consider replacing real candles with battery-operated, flameless candles. You can even choose various scents, just like with wax candles. Just remember to turn them off when leaving the house as LED lights do get hot.
If you do decide to burn real candles as part of your decorations, use caution. Always use a sturdy candleholder placed on a flat surface to keep it from tipping over or touching flammable surfaces. Never leave a candle burning unattended and always blow them out when you leave a room. When decorating, keep candles at least 12 inches away from all flammable items. Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children.
Speaking of open flames, check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year. Use a screen on the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning. Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach of children in a locked cabinet. Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
During the holidays, many people overload electrical circuits to accommodate lighting, decorations and cooking appliances, which can unknowingly increase the potential for electrical fires and outages. A typical household circuit can power 70 strings of 50-bulb mini lights or 300 to 600 strings of 50-bulb LED lights. If you plan to use more than these amounts, spread the light strands across multiple circuits to prevent an overload. Take any major appliances into account if you plug lights into the same circuit.
Decorating is one of the best ways to get in a holiday mood, so keep your holidays merry and bright by adding safety to your holiday list. Whether you’re wrapping up presents or wrapping up the holiday season, give yourself the gift of peace of mind by making sure you’re covered for any holiday mishap.