The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms during the holiday season due to injuries related to holiday decorating. Defective holiday lights, unattended candles, and dried out trees are the cause of many fires and injuries. Leading the list of hazards are candle-related fires averaging more than 12,000 per year resulting in 150 deaths and $393 million in property damage. Additionally, Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires resulting in an average of 15 deaths and $13 million in property damage annually. But steps can be taken to ensure your home’s safety and have it looking great. Here are some useful tips for decorating safely.
• When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant”. Although these trees can still catch fire, they are much more resistant to doing so.
• When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness by seeing that the tree is green and needles are difficult to pull form branches. Also, the bottom of a fresh tree will be sticky with resin.
• Place trees away from heat sources when setting them up in your home. Fireplaces, vents, and radiators can dry out live trees rapidly, causing a greater chance of fire. Be sure to monitor water levels and keep the stand filled with water. Be sure the tree does not block doorways and is out of the way of traffic.
• If there are small children in the home, avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who can swallow or inhale them. Avoid trimmings that resemble food to eliminate the temptation for a child to eat them.
• Use lights (indoor or outdoor) that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA.
• Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections. Discard damaged sets. Don’t use electric lights on a metallic tree.
• Make sure any extension cords are rated for the intended use.
• If using outdoor lighting, check labels to make sure the items have been certified for outdoor use and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
• Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you leave the room or house or go to bed.
• Keep lighted candles away from items such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture that can catch fire and burn easily.
For more holiday decorating safety tips go to CPSC’s web site at www.cpsc.gov