Each year, during the two months around the holiday season, more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries related to holiday decorating.
Christmas trees also are involved in hundreds of fires resulting in an average of 15 deaths and $13 million dollars in property damage annually.
Candle-related fires lead the list of fire hazards averaging more than 12,000 a year, resulting in 150 deaths and $393 million in property damage.
Here are 10 safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for your decorating this holiday season:
Trees and decorations
1. Look for the label "Fire Resistant" when purchasing an artificial tree.
2. Check for freshness when purchasing a live tree. The needles are hard to pull from the branches of a green tree and don’t break when bent between your fingers.
3. Place your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, monitor water levels and keep the stand filled with water.
4. Take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations in homes with small children. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
5. Use only indoor and outside lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA.
6. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Don’t use electric lights on a metallic tree.
7. Read the ratings on extension cord labels to make sure they’ll be used properly.
8. Check labels for outdoor lighting to be sure the lights have been certified for outdoor use and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
9. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
10. Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains, and furniture.
For more information, see the commission’s brochure on holiday decorating safety tips.
Copyright 2009, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist