Each holiday season, fires claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause more than $990 million in damage, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Keep your family and home safe by following these simple fire safety tips.
Plan. Before you haul out boxes of holiday decorations or bring home a fresh cut tree, take the time to think about your décor placement. Plan to place your Christmas tree away from fireplaces and heating vents. The heat from either can cause fresh trees to dry out, making it more susceptible to sparks or flames. Make sure to also select a display space that is clear from doorways and windows, so as not to block any exits.
Inspect. Take the time to inspect your holiday decorations, especially the light strands. Look for worn, frayed wires and cracked plugs and sockets. Replace any damaged light strands, as they may become potential electrical hazards. Use only UL (Underwriters Laboratory) tested lights. The UL symbol on a light strand means it has been tested for safety risks, including fire hazards. If you display a prelit manufactured tree, check the bulbs and wire connections for frays and damage.
Maintain. Fresh Christmas trees must be maintained or they can become a fire hazard. Always keep your fresh tree watered. Any tree with brittle needles that are falling off has dried out and can become a fire hazard. A living Christmas tree (the kind you can plant after the holidays) can stay fresher longer than a cut tree when properly maintained.
Decorate fire smart. Purchase only flame-retardant Christmas decorations to help minimize the potential of fire hazards. The Escondido Fire Department in California recommends decorating your tree with miniature lights instead of the large ones to prevent heat build-up and reduce the drying effect on a fresh tree’s needles. Never overload an electrical outlet with extension cords or link more than three strands of lights together. When hanging garlands and decorations on or near a mantle, do not drape any part near the fireplace opening. Secure the decorations firmly.
Candle safety. Never decorate any tree or wreath with real lit candles. When using lit candles, place them in a safe zone, an area that’s clear of any items that could be ignited by the flame and where there is no danger of the candle being knocked over or touched by children and animals. Unattended lit candles are a potential fire hazard.
Routine check-ups. Check electrical cords daily, including the ones you use for outdoor decorations. If any feel warm to the touch, unplug and remove. Likewise, check your holiday light strands for warmth. Lights and cords should not feel warm to the touch, according to the USFA. In addition, the USFA recommends never leaving plugged-in holiday lights unattended; unplug before you leave the house.