As the holiday season rolls around, usually the last thing on a parent’s mind is safety. There is shopping to do, preparations to prepare, and depending on your situation, mustering enough spare energy to survive a visit from the in-laws. Unfortunately, this season is also one of the more dangerous times of the year. Yet with a few simple precautions, you can keep your holiday season safe:
1. When selecting a tree: Make sure you purchase an artificial tree labeled as “fire resistant.” If using a natural tree, make sure it is freshly cut and not dried out. The needles should be green and shouldn’t break when bent. Also, look for the base to be sticky with resin. You may want to cut away 3 inches from the bottom of the tree, which will help with water absorption and prevent drying.
Once lit, it takes a dry Christmas tree mere seconds to become a flaming bonfire in your living room, according to various tests done. So once the holiday season is over, don’t leave the tree in the house for too long. The longer it’s there, the more dried out it will become, and the more of a threat it poses.
2. There are several things to take into consideration when putting up the holiday decorations…A) Use only non-combustible tree trimming materials, B) Do not use Christmas lights on a metallic tree, as this can cause it to become electrically charged, C) Be sure to position any sharp and/or breakable ornaments safely out of children’s’ reach, D) Use only lights that have been approved for either indoor and outdoor use by a certified testing laboratory, and be sure to toss any sets if the wires are frayed or if there are any crushed/broken sockets. Also ensure that outdoor lights are plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter. (GFCI) protected outlet, E) Be careful stringing those lights! Falls are one of the leading causes of serious injury and death. F) Watch for choking hazards in any decorations you put up.
3. Turn off all lights and snuff out candles before going to bed. Candles, especially, need to be closely monitored. If you have pets in the house, they can knock over an unattended candle, starting a fire that grows quickly. So be sure to put out all candles whenever going to bed or leaving the area.
4. Keep a screen around the fireplace to contain any sparks, which can be launched out as the fire pops. Also, it’s best not to burn wrapping paper or tree branches in the fireplace. It poses a fire hazard and can unleash toxic fumes.
5. Avoid using space heaters whenever possible, and now would be a good time to check the batteries in fire alarms/carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide kills around 500 people each year, so if your house does not have CM detectors, it needs them.
6. Incidents of children playing with fire also spike during this time of te year. Whether this is from boredom, a lack of supervision (as parents are busy with guests), or all the lights and candles around sparking a dangerous inquisitiveness, this is also the season of deadly curiosity. Keep all fire-starting tools safely out of reach, and check under the bed and in the closets for burnt matches or other signs that a child is playing with fire.
7. Watch the kids! The number one killer of children isn’t sex-offenders or community predators, nor even car accidents. It’s improper supervision. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and as parents become distracted by family or guests, child supervision often takes a dive. Keep this in your mind while entertaining guests. It often helps to recruit older children or guests to share in the supervision task. Others will keep a more watchful eye when asked to do so, and older kids love the responsibility, but unless you expressly ask for it, others are unlikely to take the initiative on their own.