Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Safety at Home

Holiday Decorating Tips Part 2

Winter in a city. Vector

Part 2 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. As we discussed in our RJW Training System blog post last week, 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. Santa could fall right onto open flames in your fireplace if you aren’t careful.

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. Last week, we covered safety relative to decorating. This week, we will focus on safely lighting fires, holiday wrapping and (my personal favorite) cooking.


  • Clean your chimney or hire a professional to remove soot and ash.
  • Before lighting a fire move greens, boughs, papers, ribbons and other decorations far away from the hearth.
  • Open the flue.
  • Make sure a screen covers the fireplace anytime a fire is burning.
  • Be careful when using fire salts, which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. These salts contain heavy metals which could cause intense gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten. So make sure they are stored well out of reach of children and pets.
  • If you decide to roast marshmallows inside, invest in a tabletop Sterno stove made especially for the purpose, instead of roasting over an open gas flame. Or maybe you could just skip the marshmallow roasting altogether and stick to roasting meat. Just a suggestion.

Wrapping Paper and Bows

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
  • In homes with small children and/or pets, avoid package decorations that are sharp or breakable.
  • Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child or dog could eat them!
  • If you opt to make paper decorations, use materials labeled non-combustible or flame-resistant.
  • Don’t place wrapping paper, tape or ribbons near open flames or electrical connections.
  • Store wrapping paper far from the Christmas tree and fireplace. This is particularly important immediately after unwrapping gifts, when adrenaline is high.
  • Resist the temptation to burn used wrapping paper in the fireplace. Colorful paper and cardboard boxes often contain toxic chemicals. What’s more, a flash fire could start if wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Keep anyone who smokes far from flammable decorations. Or you could even keep smokers far away from your holiday get-together altogether. But that’s your call.
  • Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of the reach of children and canines.


Your stovetop and oven are probably busier than usual during the holidays. So, whether you are making potato latkes, homemade beef jerky, or baking Santa-shaped cookies, take steps to ensure safety. FEMA recommends “choosing the right equipment and using it properly,” as well as:

  • Using cooking equipment tested and approved by a recognized testing facility.
  • Following manufacturers’ instructions and code requirements when installing and operating cooking equipment.
  • Plugging microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into wall outlets. Don’t use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it could overload circuitry and start a fire.
  • Make a lot more food than you think you’ll need. Your pets will be glad to help you cut down on overages.

Another important holiday cooking reminder is to practice safe food-handling habits to keep every one of your guests healthy and happy:

  • When transporting food items from the grocery store to your home, pack cold items in ice if you’ll be on the road longer than 15 minutes. When it doubt, give it to your pooch.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before preparing food
  • Scrub food-contact surfaces often.
  • Use one color sponge for cleaning dishes and another for wiping sinks and surfaces.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, knives and counter tops with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate by allowing bacteria to move from one food product to another. This is especially important for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Keep raw meats and their juices far from ready-to-eat foods such as uncooked fruits and vegetables. Or just skip vegetables altogether and stick strictly with steak, bacon and pork chops.
  • Cook foods to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly. Public health officials advise consumers to refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40ºF.
  • Keep your freezer set at 0ºF. Regularly check the accuracy of the settings with a thermometer.
  • For additional food-related safety tips, check out the FEMA Holiday Cooking resources.

Plan for Safety

  • Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Keep your eyes peeled for potential hazards and eliminate possible danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees, and/or electrical connections.
  • Make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out anywhere in the home. See to it that each family member knows what to do. PRACTICE THE PLAN!
  • Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

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.


RJ the Fire Dog is the mascot for Allied Universal, the premiere provider for e-based fire life safety training for residents and workers in high-rise buildings. His young son, JR, sometimes takes over writing his posts. RJ also maintains an active Twitter account, which he posts to when he isn’t working in the firehouse. The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50%

2 thoughts on “Holiday Decorating Tips Part 2

  1. Great post – I shared it on my preparedness page! Good information combined with nice sense of humor, the same style I try to use in my blog I particularly like the pet references!

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