Holiday lights, candles, and real trees add something very special to the holiday season. However, forgetting to follow certain safety guidelines can spell disaster for your home, children, or pets this holiday season.
One of the most important things to keep in mind during the holiday season is fire safety. Cooking, Christmas trees, candles, and holiday decorations all contribute to the increased risk of fire that comes with the holiday season.
Unattended cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the U.S., and the majority of home cooking fires involve the stovetop. Always stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. Keep children and any flammable objects away from the stovetop, and always turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen. Keep a close eye on anything that is simmering, boiling, baking, or roasting, and set a time to remind yourself to check on the food and prevent a fire.
December is the No. 1 month of the year for home candle fires, and more than one-third of home candle fires are caused by candles in the bedroom. More than half of all candle fires are started because the candle was burning too close to a flammable object. Always burn candles at least one foot away from anything that can catch fire, and always blow them out before you leave the room or go to bed. Never leave a child or pet in a room unattended with a burning candle. Many consumers have opted for flameless candles, which mimic the look and scent of real candles without the fire risk.
Christmas trees are another major source of holiday fires. U.S. fire departments respond to more than 200 Christmas tree fires every year; one-third of Christmas tree fires are due to electrical problems, and one in six Christmas tree fires are due to a heat source turned on too close to the tree.
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For artificial trees, make sure it is labeled or certified as fire-retardant by the manufacturer. For real Christmas trees, make sure the green needles do not fall off when touched, and make sure to cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk before placing it in the stand. Add water to the stand and water the tree daily to ensure it is healthy and as flame-retardant as possible. Also, make sure to get rid of the tree after the holidays are over; dried-out trees present a serious fire risk and should not be stored in the home or garage.
If you have pets, be conscious of your holiday lights and the cords attached. Dogs and cats can chew on exposed cords, putting them at risk for electrical shock, and cords can present a strangulation hazard for pets and children alike. Make sure the cords are tucked away to avoid putting children or pets at risk. All trees should be placed at least three feet away from any source of heat, including fireplaces, space heaters, candles, heat vents, lights, and radiators.
Always use flame-retardant decorations to avoid the risk of fire in the home. Do not link more than three strings of lights together, as this can cause electrical issues and eventually fires.
If you have cats, consider not decorating with shiny tinsel or ribbon. Cats love to play with these types of decorations, and if swallowed, they can get caught in the cat’s stomach and make him or her very sick. Also, keep in mind that certain types of holiday flowers (like poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe) can make pets very sick if ingested; if you have these types of plants in the home, put them out of reach of pets.