By Charlotte Richter
It’s the holiday season! Time to make memories with family and friends, and no matter what holiday you celebrate, there’s a lot that can go into your traditions. While there may not be a real Grinch, things can easily take a turn for the worst this time of year. Here are a few things you should do to make sure you can safely enjoy the festivities.
First, you may be choosing a Christmas tree, and in this case, you’ll want to keep your plans in mind. If you plan on traveling or don’t want to upkeep a live tree, an artificial tree is a good way to go. Make sure you know the dimensions of the space in which you plan to place it and the dimensions of the tree itself. Remember when placing trees, keep them out of doorways, walkways, and at least three feet away from heating sources. If you have an artificial tree, but would have preferred something real, there are pine-scented objects you can hang to recreate the Christmas tree smell. Also, it's important to make sure there is an indication that the tree is flame resistant so that decorating goes more smoothly. If you choose to get a real tree, try to pick a fresh tree by checking the pine needles. Make sure to cut 2” from the base when placing it (most live trees will be pre-cut), and keep it watered. Well-watered trees are less likely to be a fire hazard.
If you use candles in decorating your home, keep flammable objects at least one foot away, and place them in a stable holder on a stable surface. Never decorate a tree with a real, lit candle. Never leave a candle unattended, and if that’s a concern, consider flameless candles for the same effect with lower risk!
According to the NFPA, one of every four home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical
problems, as Christmas lights pose the risk of an electrical fire. To prevent this, make sure you are decorating correctly. Check the strand before you buy; some are designed exclusively for indoor and outdoor use. As you hang lights, remember to use clips or hooks rather than pins and nails to avoid damaging the cords. It’s a good idea to replace broken bulbs and damaged strands or anything that could cause a faulty connection. Make sure you don’t overload any outlets by checking the voltage and how many strands can be connected. Many people like to leave on lights for neighbors to enjoy, but leaving lights on can cause them to overheat. Remember to turn off or unplug lights used for tree decoration before you go to bed.
Trees, mistletoe and poinsettias are classic decorations this season, but some of them are poisonous. If you have pets or small children, keep poisonous plants out of reach or consider decorating with something else.
Ornaments are also classic a decoration, but this is another area to consider child/pet-proofing because ornaments can fall and break. These shatterproof ornaments are available at most commercial retailers that are often easier to hang and clean up.
Lastly (while it's less about decorating), be aware that cooking is the number one reason for home fires and according to the NFPA, cooking fires happen most often in November and December. When you’re cooking, remember to clean as you go to avoid involuntary house fires, and have safety measures readily available.
Holidays present somewhat of a difficult situation: many valuable things are left unattended in the same place for long periods. While burglaries are more likely during the summer, there is an increase during the holiday season that can easily be prevented.
If you’re away for the holidays or home and out of the house, remember to lock your door, leave your lights on (house lights, not decorations) and keep valuables (like presents) out of sight. Consider getting a security system, or at least putting a sign or a sticker in the window to deter offenders.