Holiday Decorating Safety
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.
In 2012, the most frequently reported holiday decorating incidents seen in emergency departments involved falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%). When it comes to fires, from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to an average of 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item ignited. These incidents resulted in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss. In addition, candle-related fires from 2009 through 2011 have resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.
To prevent fires, discard holiday lights sets with evidence of damage such as broken sockets and bare wires, water Christmas trees frequently, and always extinguish candles before leaving a room.
Heed the warning labels on ladders. Read CPSC’s OnSafety blog, “Ladder Safety 101,” for tips to prevent ladder falls this season.
Trees and Decorations
Buying a live tree? Check for freshness. 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.
Setting up a tree at home? Place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the label does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
Decorating a tree in a home with small children? Take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children, who could swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.
Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
Use lights that have been tested. Select lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. On decorative lights available in stores, UL’s red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies that the product meets requirements for indoor use only.
Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
Check each extension cord. Make sure each extension cord is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
Check outdoor lights for labels. Look for labels indicating that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
Use care with “fire salts.” Fire salts produce colored flames when thrown onto wood fires. Fire salts contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting, if swallowed. Keep fire salts away from children.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result from burning wrapping papers because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.