Trimming the tree and stringing up the lights is a longstanding tradition during the holiday season. Unfortunately, decking the halls can put you and your loved ones in danger. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates 230 home fires involve Christmas trees and another 150 involve holiday lights every year in America, resulting in 15 deaths.
Beyond fires, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating during November and December 2012. “There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. The CPSC offers these tips on safely decorating your home.
Decorating Tips for the Home…
- Prevent ladder injuries – In 2012, 34 percent of the holiday decorating incidents involved falls. Read Ladder Safety 101 for tips.
- Choose a tree wisely – Always check the freshness of a live Christmas tree. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and the needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. This video shows the flammability of a dry Christmas tree versus a tree that has been watered regularly. If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for the label “fire resistant.”
- Keep an eye on candles – Candles should always be displayed on a stable, heat-resistant surface and extinguished before you leave the room or the house and before going to bed. Two out of every five home decorating fires are started by candles.
- Check the lights – Use lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Plug one cord in at a time and throw away any cords with exposed wires.
- Maintain a safe distance – Decorations should be placed at least three feet away from the fireplace. And think twice before tossing discarded wrapping paper into the fire: Wrappings can ignite suddenly and create a flash fire.
One too many toasts can prove deadly during the holiday if partygoers choose to drink and drive. During the past decade, alcohol was a factor in 37 percent of deadly crashes around the Christmas holidays, 41 percent over New Year’s. That compares to 31 percent over the rest of the year. During the 2012 holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes.
Tips for the responsible social host …
- Stay in control – If you choose to serve alcohol at your party, stay within your own limits to set a good example for guests.
- Choose a reliable bartender – Don’t let underage guests drink alcohol. You can be held liable if an intoxicated minor leaves your party and is injured or injures someone else. Consider closing the bar 90 minutes early and offering non-alcoholic beverages like tea or coffee along with dessert.
- Watch your guests – Arrange rides for any guests who appear to be intoxicated. If they insist on leaving, take their keys, ask a sober guest for help or drive them home yourself. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has a Safe Party Guide with more information.
- Test your smoke alarms – Keep fresh batteries in all smoke alarms and ask guests to smoke outside. One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.
- Be careful when cooking – Do not leave a pot unattended on the stove and remain in the kitchen while cooking.