As Thanksgiving approaches with Christmas and New Year's Eve following shortly thereafter, many people enjoy the opportunity to decorate their homes and businesses. It is special time of year, and the interior designer comes out in all of us. While we are all for this burst of creativity, we want to be sure it is not accompanied by a burst of flames, busted lip, or a trip to the emergency room. Therefore, we offer these common sense reminders that emphasize safety as you are choosing your decorations, their location, and their maintenance. Please review them as a helpful reminder!
- When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure to verify the "Fire Resistant" tag on the tree. This doesn't mean that the tree is fire proof, but does mean it will not ignite easily and should extinguish quickly should it catch fire.
- When purchasing a live tree, be sure to consider the freshness of the tree. Many trees are cut in early to mid November to be available immediately after Thanksgiving. The needles should not be falling off or the branches braking if you intend to have it up for any length of time. Also be sure to water the tree frequently to extend its life, and cut 2 inches off the trunk before placing it in a stand to improve the trunks ability to absorb the water.
- Tree location is also important. Avoid placing at tree near a fireplace, radiator, cooking surface, or other source of heat or flame.
- All lights used (indoor or outdoor) should have a label indicated they have been safety tested by a recognized testing organization like UL. This will indicate that the lights conform to safety standards. Recognize the all lights are not created equal and cheapest may not equate to safest.
- Check all lights for broken sockets and bulbs, frayed or cracked insulation, or loose connections. Throw away any Christmas light sets that begin to show wear and tear.
- Replace burned out bulbs immediately with the same wattage bulbs.
- Only use lights sets that contain fuses to avoid any surge or short that can cause a fire.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree, as an exposed wire or socket could charge the tree and shock any person or pet who came in contact with it.
- Only use lights designed for outdoor use when decorating outside or in a damp area.
- For outdoor lights, only plug them into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You should be able identify a ground fault outlet as it typically has a test and reset button on the outlet. Portable GFCIs may be purchased at hardware stores.
- If you outdoor lights go out when it rains, you will need to reset the ground fault circuit with the reset button when the lights dry. You may want to replace those lights as they are not fully sealed as originally designed)
- Secure you lights to avoid them falling or coming with reach of small children or pets.
- Be mindful that the twinkle of colorful lights is a magnet for small children, and that pets can be prone to chewing light strands, risking shock to themselves and exposing live wires to people.
- Always remember to turn out your holiday lights when you leave or go to bed.
- The occurrence of fires started by candles doubles during the month of December. Whenever candles are used, they should never be left unattended. Always extinguish candles when you leave a room and avoid falling asleep with candles lit.
- Avoid using them in close proximity to any flammable materials, including Christmas trees, garland, or wreaths.
When small children may be present:
- Avoid the use of breakable or sharp decorations, or decorations with small removable parts that could be a choking hazard.
- Avoid decorations the resemble food or candy that may tempt kids into putting them into their mouth or ingesting them.
- Avoid the display of Holly or Poinsettias, as both can be toxic if consumed.
- Avoid the use of mantel top stocking holders than can easily be pulled down onto the heads of toddlers.
We'd like to bring added attention to this last point. We offer a Christmas Stocking Hanger kit that allows for stockings to be hung from a track mounted under a fireplace Mantel. This method for hanging Christmas Stockings was designed specifically to address this safety concern for parents of small children. We've discussed the safety issue in greater detail in a previous article, which offers interesting links to articles on the topic, and informative customer comments as well.