ACCORDING TO estimates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC; cpsc.
gov), more than 14,000 people in the United States
end up in emergency rooms with injuries from decorating during the holiday months. Fires from trees
and candles can result in injuries, deaths and property damage or loss.
CPSC spokesperson Kim Dulic says, “;ese
injuries are preventable. Add safety to your holiday
home checklist, in order to keep the decorating tra-
dition festive and your family safe from harm.”
Keep this season happy by following these safety
tips from Fight Back! and the CPSC.
Fresh is best. A fresh tree is less of a ;re hazard
than a dry tree. How can you tell if a tree is fresh?
Besides its green color, if the tree is fresh, the needles
will be hard to pull from the branches and they won’t
break when you bend them between your ;ngers. If
you bounce the trunk on the ground and it loses a lot
of needles, chances are it’s not fresh. ;e bottom of
the tree should be sticky and coated with resin. Once
you purchase your fresh tree, cut o; about 2 inches
of its trunk for better water absorption.
If you’re buying an arti;cial tree, make sure the
label says it’s ;re resistant. ;at doesn’t mean that
the tree will not catch ;re; the label just indicates
that the tree is more resistant to catching ;re.
Beat the heat. Don’t place a tree near a ;replace,
vent or radiator or where it can block doorways or
high-tra;c areas. Keep in mind that heated rooms
can dry out trees rapidly and turn them into ;re haz-
ards. Screen the ;replace when ;res are burning, and
keep lights and decorations away from the ;replace.
Don’t throw wrapping paper into the ;replace, as
wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Decorate safely. If you’re decorating your tree
in a home with children or pets, avoid sharp,
weighted or breakable decorations and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of reach.
Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food or that
could tempt a child to eat or swallow them. Replace
metal hooks with ribbon or string to prevent choking and injury. Put only unbreakable and nontoxic
ornaments on the lowest areas of the Christmas tree.
Lights. Look for decorative lights that have been
tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory
like Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL’s red holographic label means the product is certified for
indoor and outdoor use. A green holographic UL
label means indoor use only.
Plug in properly. Only plug outdoor lights into
a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected
receptacle or a portable GFCI. ;is type of outlet
will shut down the circuit if there is overcurrent.
Turn o; all lights on trees and other decorations
when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could
short-circuit and start a ;re.
Before you plug in. Read labels for lights and
other wired decorations to make sure they conform
to acceptable wattage levels. Examine both new and
old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or
bare wires, or loose connections. Don’t use damaged
lights. Don’t put electric lights on a metallic tree.
Make sure each extension cord is rated for the
intended use and is in good condition; do not use
cords with cuts or signs of fraying. Use no more
than three standard-size sets of lights per single
extension cord. Fasten outdoor lights securely to
trees, the house, walls or other ;rm support to protect them from wind damage.
Candles. Keep lighted candles in non;ammable
candleholders on stable, heat-resistant surfaces
where guests, children and/or pets can’t knock them
over. Keep them away from anything that can catch
;re or has the potential to combust. Make sure to
blow them out when you leave the room or house or
go to sleep. Battery-powered LED candles can be
used as an alternative to lighted candles.
Do your homework. Check the CPSC recall list
on its website for decoration recalls and safety violations. Keep items you purchase in the original packaging, along with any relevant paperwork and
receipts, so you can refer to product and
purchase details in case of a recall.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it
comes to decorating during the holidays. Practice
these tips to keep the festive season a time for celebration and cheer. Happy holidays! C
David Horowitz is a leading
consumer advocate. David’s
daughter Amanda Horowitz
is the CEO of Fight Back! and
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Make safety a holiday tradition