Nothing sets the holiday mood like twinkling lights, flickering candles, and a tree with all the trimmings. But, if you’re not careful, those twinkles can turn into dangerous blazes. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), home fires involving Christmas trees and holiday lights result in roughly $25.2 million in direct property damage each year.
But don’t despair — you can enjoy your adornments and stay safe too. Here are some easy-to-follow holiday safety tips to help you spread cheer the smart way.
Holiday safety tips
Christmas trees cause hundreds of holiday fires. The reason? A dry tree makes for perfect kindling.
Here’s how you can keep your tree fresh.
Select a recently cut tree:
- Look for needles that are green and bendable and a trunk that’s sticky and sappy.
- Avoid trees with brown needles or needles that break easily.
- Check the freshness by standing the tree upright and bouncing it on its trunk. If the tree is freshly cut, only a few needles will fall.
Once you bring the tree home:
- Choose an appropriate location for it away from heat sources like fireplaces, heating vents, or space heaters.
- Cut the base of the trunk immediately before placing it in the tree stand to help it absorb water. (And never leave a tree standing in its temporary wooden stand.)
- Check the water levels daily and replace water as needed.
- Keep your tree for only 2 to 3 weeks to avoid having it dry out. When you’re ready to dispose of the tree, check with your local waste services department to find out where to take it. (Many cities offer recycling as an option, and some will pick it up curbside).
Holiday lights and candles
According to the USFA, electrical fires are most common in December and January.
To safely decorate your home or tree:
- Use ultra-violet (UV) lights approved by a testing laboratory.
- Make sure the light bulb wattage matches the cord’s requirements.
- Inspect all indoor and outdoor lights before hanging.
- Replace any lights that have frayed cords, exposed wires, and broken or cracked sockets.
- Never use a light strand with an empty socket.
- Limit the connected light strands to 3. Connecting more strands of lights may overwork the outlet.
- Check wires regularly for hot spots. If you feel a hot spot, unplug the cord immediately.
- Don’t lay electrical cords under rugs or in high-traffic areas.
- Ensure all electrical cords and outlets are unobstructed by curtains, clothes, and other decorations.
- Never leave the lights on unattended. Unplug them before you leave the house and when you go to bed.
To minimize the dangers of candles:
- Consider using battery-operated candles that don’t require a lit flame.
- Place candles in stable and appropriately sized holders that are made of metal, glass, or ceramic.
- Don’t place anything that can burn within 12 inches of a candle.
- Avoid placing candles in high-traffic areas, within reach of children or pets, in the bedroom, near or on a Christmas tree, below curtains, in window areas, on bookshelves, or near medical oxygen.
- Double-check that your smoke alarms work and review your family’s emergency plan.
- Never leave burning candles unattended. Blow them out after use and before you go to bed.
With these tips in tow, you can deck the halls to your heart’s content. One final tip: for added peace of mind this holiday season, make sure you have a homeowners or renters policy that has your back.