Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 11, 2012

Safety Tips for Holiday Decorations

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Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

While it may not be as much to think about holiday safety as it is to go Christmas shopping, it’s imperative that you take time to consider how to make the season as safe as possible. According to FEMA, the holidays pose serious fire hazards:

  1. In December, 72% of structure fires occur in residential buildings.
  2. The use of traditional adornments such as Christmas trees and decorations provide additional points of igni­tion that increase the incidence of holiday fires.
  3. The leading cause of December residential building-structure fires involve cooking.
  4. All of the holiday hoopla could cause you to potentially run out of turkey jerky if you don’t stock up and that could drive your dog to do something drastic, like staring a signal fire in the living room.

To help make holiday fire-prevention easy, the professionals at RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have assembled a few tips to help you and your friends, family and colleagues BE SAFE this holiday season. This week, we will focus on trees and lighting. Check out next week’s post, as well, as we’ll tackle kitchen safety tips relative to holiday cooking and wrapping. I prefer giving food for holiday gifts. It’s so much easier to just eat the gifts than to try to find a place to store them in the doghouse.

Lights

Outdoors

  • Make sure the light strands you select to use outside are approved for outdoor use.
  • Only use lights that have been tested and approved for safety. This identification will be labeled by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Keep lights far from flammable sources such as dry timber and paper products.
  • Fasten lights securely to trees, your house or exterior walls or to anchor strands and prevent wind damage.
  • You might want to make sure the lights are waterproof. I know lots of canines who like to mark this type of thing. Just sayin’.

Indoors

  • As with outdoor lights, use only interior decorating lights that have been tested and approved for safety. Identifications of this kind are made by independent testing laboratories.
  • Check light sets whether new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections.
  • Discard or repair damaged sets. It is better to postpone decorating than deal with the aftermath of a structural fire. So take the time to make sure your lights are fire safe.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. What is this? Christmas Vacation? Safety first, people!
  • Turn off lights (as well as other decorations) when you go to bed or leave the house. This will prevent lights from shorting out and starting fires.
  • Don’t use electric lights on a metallic tree. And while we’re on the subject, do you think the best you can do is to buy a metallic tree? I prefer good old fashioned wood!
  • Trees can become charged with electricity from faulty lights. If this happens, anyone who touches a branch of the affected tree runs the risk of electrocution! To avoid this, use colored spotlights above or beside trees instead of fastening large lights directly to a tree.
  • Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. Any lights that feature bright colors and bubbling could tempt curious children to break candle-shaped glass. This is dangerous as the glass can cut and the liquid contents contain hazardous chemicals.

Candles

  • This should go without saying. But we would rather you BE SAFE than sorry. So we want to make sure to warn against anyone using lighted candles on a tree or near evergreens of any kind.
  • Use only non-flammable candle holders.
  • Place candles far out of reach of children and pets as well as out of pathways where they could potentially be knocked down or blown over.
  • If you are lighting a menorah, make sure the candlelight is far from decorations and wrapping paper. Cellophane packaging and gift bags with tissue paper are great for wrapping. But they are also extremely flammable. So store them far from candles.

Trees

  • Fresh trees are green. If someone tries to sell you a tree that is brown, back slowly away and find another lot.
  • Fresh needles are difficult to pull off of branches. If needles fall like snow, find another tree.
  • Fresh needles are difficult to break. Don’t buy a tree that has brittle needles.
  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection.
  • The butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.
  • Place tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees rapidly, which could create a fire hazard.
  • When preparing your tree to place in a stand, cut off two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for effective water absorption. Try to make a clear pathway so your dog can drink from the tree stand. Or not. Your choice.
  • Trim extra branches and set the trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water as long as the tree is indoors.
  • Place your tree out of the pathway of traffic and don’t block doorways.
  • Fresh trees smell great. (Just a casual observation.)

Next week, we’ll cover more holiday safety tips. Until then, enjoy holiday preparations and BE SAFE. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

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