As the holiday season approaches, we are all looking forward to special gatherings and celebrations with friends and loved ones. Our homes will be decorated to enhance the atmosphere of the holidays. Holiday decorations can be joyful but also dangerous if improperly used, especially for children. Every year thousands of needless injuries and deaths are caused by decorations. A little caution and planning while decorating will help you avoid tragedy during the upcoming holiday season.
Trees: When buying a natural tree, the most important safety factor is freshness. The higher the moisture content the less likely it is to dry out and become a fire hazard. Check for freshness by examining the needles. Bend them between your fingers. They shouldn't break. Tap the tree gently on a firm surface, if many needles fall off, the tree is too dry. Do not rely on the tree color, many are sprayed green. To keep your tree fresh longer, cut off two inches of the trunk and mount in a sturdy water holding stand with wide spread legs. Locate the tree away from fireplaces, wall furnaces and other heat sources. Do not block stairs or doorways. Dispose of the tree when needles begin to fall off in large quantities.
Artificial trees should bear the UL label. Never use electric lights on metal trees. To avoid electric shock on metal trees, use colored spotlights securely mounted above or below the tree, never fastened directly on it. Plastic trees should be made of fire resistant material. This does not mean that the tree will not burn, but only that it will not catch fire easily. As with natural trees, keep away from heat sources.
Holiday Lighting: Use only UL approved lighting. Inspect electric lights for broken or cracked sockets and frayed wires, replace if necessary. Do not use indoor lights outdoors or visa-versa. Do not overload extension cords, and do not connect more than three sets of lights to one cord. Outlets should be readily accessible for quick disconnection if necessary. Never use lighted candles on or near a tree or other decorations. All lights should be securely fastened to the tree. No bulbs should come in contact with needles or branches. Turn off all holiday lights when you retire or leave home.
Outdoor lights should be weatherproof and clearly identified as designed for outdoor use. Remove outdoor lighting as soon as the season is over. Even these lights are not designed to withstand prolonged exposure to the elements.
Poisonous Decorations: Beware of toxic decorations. Mistletoe and holly berries may be poisonous if more than a few are swallowed. Old tinsel may contain lead. Discard old tinsel if you are not sure of its composition. Fire Salts (which produce a multicolored effect when thrown on burning wood) contain heavy metals, which if swallowed may cause serious gastrointestinal problems and vomiting. If your child consumes any of these possibly hazardous substances, immediately call your physician or the Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222.
Tree Ornaments And Trimmings: Avoid placing small or breakable ornaments on lower branches where children or pets can reach them and knock them off. Every year many children are treated for cuts from broken ornaments, or from swallowing broken pieces and small parts.
Fireplaces: Fireplaces are very popular during the holidays. Before starting a fire, remove all decorations from the area and be sure that the flu is open. Do not burn wrappings or evergreen boughs. These can burn extremely fast, throwing off sparks and burning debris. Safely dispose of wrapping paper with your normal trash collection.
Residential fires during the holiday season are especially tragic. Celebration and joy can quickly turn to sorrow and anguish because basic fire safety guidelines were neglected. "It can happen to you," so be careful and have a safe and carefree holiday season.