Just like the song…THIS IS THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. However, this time of the year can also bring some unpleasant safety hazards. Here are a few to watch out for and some tips to avoid these hazards during this holiday season so that everyone is safe including one of your biggest investments, your home.
More and more people have ditched their home phone (landline phone) and now have portable cellular phones. It is important to always know where your phone is for any emergency situation, especially if you would be in the unfortunate situation of a house fire and need to call 911 fast. Whenever you see smoke or fire, you should call 911. Do not try to take care of it by yourself since you do not know if it has already reached other areas of the house. Your first priority should be to get yourself and your family, friends, and pets out of your house. Leave it to the trained professional firefighters to make sure that the fire is contained and they can assess the damage.
Everyone is doing more cooking/baking during the holidays and rushing around the kitchen can cause a towel or other flammable items to find its way to the top of a hot stove top. If this should happen, turn off the burner and quickly use some baking soda to smother any small flames. Also, when is the last time you cleaned out your oven? That long, huh! Most ovens have a self-cleaning option so I highly suggest you take care of that in the next few days. By doing this you avoid those unpleasant smokey smells from leftover baking and the positive is you do not have to use chemical cleaners.
With any electrical fire, you should turn off the power first. Grab a clean, nonflammable blanket and smother the fire. Never use water!
With any fire, stay calm, react quickly, get yourself and your family out of the house, and call 911.
TIP: If you do not already have one, buy yourself an early Christmas gift of a Home Fire Extinguisher and learn how to use it. Every home should have at least one easily accessible in their home. I suggest one for the kitchen, one in the laundry room, and one on each floor of the home.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, hopefully during the fall you had a professional come and made sure your chimney was cleaned and all is in working order. If you did not, you should definitely do this before lighting up the fireplace. Keep all decorations, tree, etc. away from your fireplace and make sure that all fires are completely out before you go to sleep at night. Also, do not put wrapping paper in the fireplace. Wrapping paper can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
With all holiday decorations, make sure you avoid areas close to any heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators. Make sure no decorations block any doorways or exit doors.
Safety should always be a deciding factor when buying a Christmas tree and holiday decorations for your home. If you have an artificial Christmas tree, make sure that the box says it is “Fire Resistant”. What that means is the tree has been sprayed with a fire retardant which will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
If your tradition is going out and getting a fresh Christmas tree, make sure it has been recently cut and the needles are green. Green trees are more resistant to fire than dry ones. Move and shake the tree to make sure that needles are not falling off the tree. Do the tug test and try to pull away needles from the branches. If it is a fresh tree it should be difficult to do. Before placing in the watering stand cut off a few inches from the base so the tree absorbs fresh water. Keep the tree watered through-out the holiday season so the tree does not dry-up.
TIP: Fresh cut Christmas trees absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week, so replenish the water daily. Set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you to check and add water daily.
Glass Ornaments, Tinsel, and Garland
Many of us grew up with glass ornaments. While they can be very beautiful, they can also be a safety hazard. Make sure when using glass ornaments on trees, wreaths, and garland that you use a long enough hook to securely fasten them to the branches so they do not come crashing down if someone (or the family pet) bumps against them. If a glass ornament breaks, be careful picking up the pieces as they are sure to have sharp edges and you do not want to cut yourself.
If you use any tinsel or garland on any of your holiday decorations make sure that they are securely fastened to the greenery. Any pet that digests “string like material” will have issues. Also, you may find small children might want to pull on these which could cause your tree or decoration to topple down.
TIP: Check out your local gift stores and/or big box stores for shatterproof ornaments. You can find very pretty designs in multiple colors, multiple sizes, and even buy them in bulk.
One of the greatest things that were “invented” are flameless candles. You can find them at any of your local gift shops or big box stores. They are available in real wax, all different colors, with or without timers, and all different flickering candlelight effects. They are such a fun way to decorate because you do not have to worry about a real candle tipping over and causing a fire and possibly getting that hot wax on someone or something.
TIP: If you are storing any flameless candles away for the season and they have a timer it is a good idea to take any batteries out of them until they are displayed again the next season. Depending on where you store these, and the batteries they require, you may have corrosion happen. Best to just pop the batteries out and store the batteries in a cool dry place, or better yet, replace batteries from year to year.
When choosing the lights you are going to use, make sure they are labeled for indoor or outdoor use. You should see on the box that lights were tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory that indicates conformance with safety standards. Check out each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
Don’t be like Old Man Parker in A Christmas Story movie and plug all your lights into one area. Make sure you are using the correct extension cord marked for indoor use or outdoor use. There is a difference! To avoid potential shocks, all outdoor lights and decorations should be plugged into an electrical outlet with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
I could do a whole article about the dangers of holiday plants to small children and especially pets. My best advice here is to make sure ALL are out of reach during the holiday season. That means poinsettia plants, holly, mistletoe, and yes watch pets around the Christmas tree. Not only is it dangerous for those kitties to be climbing up, in and around them for the obvious reason it could tip over, but did you know that tree needles can cause vomiting, gastrointestinal irritation, obstruction, or puncture your pet's intestines if ingested? Don’t let those pets drink from the water intended for the live Christmas tree. That water can have bacteria or mold that can make them extremely sick.
By all means, go crazy sprucing up and decorating your home, but be smart about your decorating and you will have an enjoyable, safe, Christmas holiday with family and friends!
Merry Christmas Everybody!
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Holiday Decoration Safety Tips- https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/121347/611.pdf
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)- http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fires-by-property-type/residential/residential-structure-fires