Holiday Safety Tips

The holidays are supposed to be a happy and festive time. But unfortunately, thousands of people are hurt each year during the holiday season in accidents involving holiday products. Many of these accidents are caused by unsafe products or the improper use of holiday items. Here are some steps to help avoid injuries and make sure you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.

Decorations

  • Trees. On average, each year over 200 home fires are caused by Christmas trees igniting. Many of these fires result in significant property damage and personal injuries.
  • To help reduce the chance of a Christmas tree fire, place your tree far from heat sources and away from doorways and foot traffic. Secure large trees to walls or the ceiling with wire to prevent them from falling over. If you use a natural tree, be sure it is fresh. Fresh trees stay green longer and are less of a fire hazard than dry trees. Keep the tree fresh by cutting a few inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood (this improves water absorption), putting the tree in a stand and adding water daily or as necessary. If you buy an artificial tree, look for a statement indicating it is “flame resistant” (“flame resistant” does not mean the tree will not burn – it means only that it will not easily catch fire).

  • Lights. Whether indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. Look for a label showing they are approved by an independent testing lab and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance. Make sure the lights have no broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Turn off the lights when you leave the house or go to bed, as they could short and start a fire.

    Also be sure not to overload extension cords. Some safety experts recommend using no more than three standard size sets of lights per single extension cord.

    Never use electric lights on a metallic tree, as the tree can become charged with electricity, and a person who touches a branch could get electrocuted.

  • Ornaments and Trimmings. Tree trimmings and ornaments should be flame resistant. Don’t place small or breakable ornaments on lower branches where children can reach them or knock them off. Every year many children are treated for cuts from broken ornaments or for swallowing ornament parts. Avoid trimmings that resemble food or candy, since a child may try to eat them.
  • Candles. December is the peak time of year for home candle fires, with over 13% of home candle fires occurring in this month. To help prevent fires, keep candles away from decorations and other flammable items, and never use lighted candles in or near trees. Place candles only where they can’t be knocked down.

Toys

During the holidays, people think of children, and of shopping for toys as holiday gifts. But each year, many children are hurt playing with new toys. To keep children safe, thoughtful gift givers consider toy safety. Here are tips to help select safe and suitable toys for children.

  • Toys for children of any age should not have sharp edges, points or prongs.
  • Toys for younger children should not have parts small enough to be stuck in the child’s throat, ears or nose. This especially includes eyes, noses and buttons on stuffed toys.
  • For infants, avoid toys with strings that can tangle around the child’s neck. Infant toys like rattles and squeeze toys should be big enough so they cannot be swallowed.
  • Look for packaging stating the toy is made of non-toxic materials.
  • Electric toys and toys with heating elements can cause electrocutions and burns. These are only for older children.
  • When choosing gifts for someone else’s children, talk to the parent about what toys best suit the child’s age, skills, abilities and level of interest. This had the added benefit of avoiding gifts the child already owns.
  • Packaging often tells what age group the toy is best for. Look for and use these recommendations in selecting gifts.
  • Periodically examine toys to make sure they still work properly. Discard or repair broken toys.

Fireplaces

Before lighting a fire, remove all papers and decorations from the fireplace, and make sure the flue is open. Keep a proper screen in front of the fireplace whenever a fire is burning. Never use the fireplace to burn wrapping paper, trash or other improper material. Burning evergreens in the fireplace can also be dangerous as flames can flare out of control. Dispose of holiday trees properly.

When using holiday items, always apply common sense, try to eliminate potential dangers and have an emergency plan in the event of a fire. Doing so can help make sure you and your family have a happy — and safe — holiday season.

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