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Holiday safety in my house

Each year Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season in my home.  As soon as the meal is over and we settle in for the football game, we begin to create our holiday to-do lists.  Because of my two grandsons, decorating our home has become a very special tradition. 

Whether sorting through yards of twinkling bulbs, hanging ornaments on the tree, lighting the menorah, or displaying the seven symbols of Kwanzaa, many citizens across the United States cherish this time of year.  Unfortunately, these traditions may also increase the chance of a fire in our homes.  Approximately 240 home fires occur each year because of Christmas trees and another 150 home fires occur due to holiday and other decorative lighting. There are a few things we do in my home to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a fire.

First, we make sure our real Christmas tree is fresh.  A fresh tree’s needles will bounce back when you touch the limb.  If they fall off, chances are the tree is already too dry.  The stump of the tree should be sticky with sap. We also make sure all other live greens are very fresh.

When you bring your tree home, make sure you water it regularly.  Check the water each day.  Then, make sure you don’t dry the tree out prematurely by placing it too close to a heat source like a vent or fireplace. 

As you unwind those yards of lights, make sure there aren’t any frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or broken/cracked sockets.  In my family, we check the lights each year as we take them off the tree and discard the faulty ones.  If we have a doubt—out it goes.  We are careful not to link more than three light strands as is recommended by national testing organizations, and plug the end directly into a wall outlet or high quality power strip. 

Over the years I’m sure you accumulate those old decorations with sentimental value and special memories.  Unfortunately, they could be very dangerous and flammable.   The rule in my home is: use only nonflammable or flame retardant decorations or don’t use them at all.  And no matter how wonderful the tree looks in that special place in the room, we never block exits or the furniture with the tree —that has sparked some interesting home décor discussions over the years!

Candles are beautiful and make the house feel warm and inviting.  But, candles can definitely be dangerous.  Consider using battery-operated flameless candles in your decorations.  If you must use real candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked over easily.  Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning. The flameless candles coming out this year are really life-like.  And some operate on remote control—very convenient and safe!

As an example, here are some battery operated candles:

Photos of battery operated candles

Holiday fire safety does not have to be another big to-do on your growing holiday list.  Just follow a few safety tips while decorating and you will be giving your family one of the greatest gifts this year—safety!

For more information on ways to make your holidays safer, go to Holiday Fire Safety at the U.S. Fire Administration’s web site.  From everyone at the United States Fire Administration, let me wish you a happy and safe holiday season.

Last Updated: 
12/14/2012 - 18:07