Part 1 of a 3-part series
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, home holiday decorations cause more than 400 holiday fires each year, resulting in $15 million in property loss and damage. Nothing is as sad as a news story about a child dying in a Christmas tree fire or a father falling off of a ladder while decorating the exterior of his home. As our holiday gift to you, we would like to offer some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.
This week, we will look at safe practices for choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees as well as working with holiday paper. Next week, we will feature a guest blogger, whose entry will cover holiday workplace safety, basic safety rules and home safety guidelines. Finally, we will conclude our three-week series by focusing on holiday travel, shopping and cooking.
Holiday Safety for 2014
Choosing your tree
- Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you choose to go with a fake tree, choose one that is rated as such.
- If you decide to go with a live tree, freshness is key. A newly cut tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree…not to mention it will look nicer than one that is dead and brown.
- To check for freshness, remember that a fresh tree is green, and fresh needles are hard to pull from branches. They also do not give when bent between your fingers.
- When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry. Keep looking.
- The trunk of a freshly harvested tree should be sticky with resin.
- I advise keeping lots of water in your tree bucket. Dogs like to drink from it…though (for safety), we really shouldn’t.
- Before deciding where to put your tree, think about more than whether it is located near a picture window. Instead, make sure you choose a place in your home that is clear of all sources of heat including fireplaces, radiators and lamps. You might also want to consider where it won’t tempt your pet, since we tend to consider Christmas trees indoor plumbing!
- Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly, creating fire hazards. So make sure your home remains relatively cool. But use common sense. If you’re cold, the tree probably will be too. It is alive, after all…if you choose a live one instead of a plastic fake version.
- When prepping the tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for sufficient water absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set your tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors. And this isn’t just so Fido has another cool water option. It’s actually to keep the tree alive as long as possible.
- Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. If necessary, use thin guide-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. These wires are nearly invisible but will keep the tree safe even in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster.
- Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled. If you like the look of a flocked tree, just make sure you avoid potential injury by reading container labels and carefully following directions. I’m not one for flocked trees. They block the fresh pine scent.
- Interior Lighting. Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using. Lights are so cheap these days, you can afford to pitch them and start from scratch instead of looking for a single burnt out bulb to replace.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. If they are not properly displayed, lights could short and start a fire. It might be tempting to leave them on. But resist the urge. Safety first!
- Use colored spotlights above or beside a tree instead of fastened onto it.
- Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. The bright colors and bubbling movement could tempt curious children to break the light, leaking poisonous liquid and posing an electrical hazard. I’ve never seen bubbling lights. But they sounds scary.
- If you decide to make paper decorations, choose papers, glitter and adhesives that are not flammable. Or, better yet, encourage the kiddos to work with something other than paper if they plan to hang it from the tree.
- Don’t place trimming near open flames or electrical connections.
- Remove all wrapping papers from tree and fireplace areas immediately after presents are opened. This is particularly important during parties and Christmas morning, when distractions abound.
- Do not ever burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely
Next week, check back, as we will continue our three-week series about holiday safety. We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season, and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.