Nothing blackens the holidays at home like a visit from the Fire Department or a trip to the emergency room — especially when it’s caused by something that could have been avoided. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates 15,000 injuries during November and December 2012 came from holiday decorating: falls accounted for 34%, cuts and lacerations for 11%, and back strains for 10%.
Because we want you to live brighter and have a happy and safe holiday with your family and friends, we’re bringing you some gentle reminders about responsible holiday decorating.
1) Up on the housetop…
Hanging Christmas lights is dangerous if you’re not careful. If you decide you’re physically fit to tackle the task, remember these ladder and roof-working safety tips:
- Check the weather. You don’t want to be up on a roof hanging lights during wet or snowy weather because your chances for slipping off increase.
- Ladders should be strong enough to support you. Keep them firmly footed on level ground and angled to the building for optimum safety.
- Ladders should extend 3 feet over the top of your climbing destination.
- NEVER set up your ladder near a power line.
- Consider using a safety harness to keep you secured, especially on steeply pitched roofs.
- Use plastic clips to secure your lights in position. Do not use staples or nails.
2) Light It Up!
- Make sure all lighting sets with frayed or stripped wires should be recycled. Ensure all plug connections are snug and tight.
- Outside outlets should be ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These provide extra protection against shorting and electrocution.
- Most residential outlets are rated from 15 to 20 amps (often matching the circuit breaker), and each can handle at maximum 1800 to 2400 watts (and it’s safer to stay well below that). Hint — some outlets have amp ratings are embossed on the receptacle face.
- If you use multiple outside outlets for your holiday decorating needs, find out if they are wired to the same circuit breaker.
- While it’s best to avoid using extension cords coming from inside your home, you can do so safely by making sure they aren’t pinched or cut in doors or windows. Also, keep their connections sealed, dry, and not on the ground — especially to avoid places where people can trip over them.
- For indoor lighting, never run cords or strings of lights behind drapes or under carpets.
- Always turn off tree lights and other decorations when you go to bed. Not only will it save energy, it also lower the possibility of fire no matter if you have a live tree or plastic.
3) Dressin’ Up the House
- Spray-on snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride, and these solvents can be harmful when inhaled. Avoid spraying it when children are in close proximity, and consider opening a window for some brief ventilation.
- Family heirloom or vintage “mercury glass” ornaments have been erroneously thought to contain mercury. Actually, these glass ornaments use silvering to give it a mirror finish and the only mercury in them comes from their name. Authentic mercury glass ornaments must have 2 walls of glass with the silvering appearing in the middle of the layers. However, ultra-thin waled mirror-finish glass ornaments were produced during the 1950’s and ’60s.
- Vintage glass ornaments are fragile and can produce extremely sharp shards if broken. While some may also have lead paint, they pose no danger unless the paint is flaking off or the ornament breaks. But if this does happen, the ornament should be thrown away.
- If you have young children or pets, it’s best to keep heirloom glass ornaments safely stored away.
- Tinsel (sometimes marketed as “icicles”) maybe the classic finishing touch for a Christmas tree, but it’s also dangerous to cats and dogs who find it extremely enjoyable to chew and eat. While it’s not poisonous, it can damage digestive tracts or — worse — cause dangerous blockages. At the very least, you may find yourself in your in-law’s bathroom pulling shiny stuff from beneath your pet’s tail. Seriously. Don’t use tinsel as part of your holiday decorating if it’s going to be placed where your pets can get at it.
- Decorative plants – such as Poinsettas, hollyberries, and mistletoe – are all poisonous to humans and pets if swallowed. Again, keep these out of the reach of young children and pets.
4) “O Tannenbaum…”
- Monitor your tree’s water supply to keep it from drying out. A heat source too close to a dry tree causes roughly one in every four of Christmas tree fires.
- When choosing a tree, run your fingers through the needles on the branches and shake the tree. If the needles come off easily, choose another tree.
- Put the tree in a bucket of water outside on the coolest side of the house for at least 24 hours after you first purchase it.
- Water your tree every day. A six-foot-tall tree uses a half-gallon of water daily. Don’t forget to added some sugar to the water for nutrition.
5) Burning a Candle at Both Ends
- Keep lighted candles out of the reach of children and where they won’t be knocked over by pets.
- Keep lit candles and menorahs away from decorations and curtains by 12 inches or more.
- NEVER leave lit candles unattended. Blow them out before leaving or going to bed.
Are you an expert at safe and responsible holiday decorating? Share your insights, advice, and recommendations in the comments below!