Tips for Safe Holiday Home Decorating

As the holiday season approaches, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging consumers to make safety a factor in holiday decorating. Whether it is careful candle placement or checking the warning label on the holiday lights, simple safety steps can go a long way in preventing fires and injuries this year.

Annually, during the two months surrounding the holiday season, more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries related to holiday decorating. In addition, Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires resulting in an average of 15 deaths and $13 million dollars in property damage annually. Candle-related fires lead the list of hazards averaging more than 12,000 a year, resulting in 150 deaths and $393 million in property damage.

"Holiday decorating-related fires and injuries most often involve defective holiday lights, unattended candles and dried-out Christmas trees," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "We are providing this list of 10 simple safety steps to help keep your holiday home safe."

Use the following safety tips when decorating this year:

Trees and Decorations

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, do look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • When purchasing a live tree, do check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, do place it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to monitor water levels and keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.
  • In homes with small children, do take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

Lights

  • Indoors or outside, do use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed, or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Don't use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • If using an extension cord, do make sure it is rated for the intended use.
  • When using lights outdoors, do check labels to be sure the lights have been certified for outdoor use and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.

Candles

  • Keep burning candles within sight. Do extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
  • Do keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains, and furniture.

To get a free brochure with more holiday decorating safety tips, click here.

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