Top 10 Home Safety Tips to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright
The holiday season is here! That means it's time to put up lights, decorate the tree, make festive dinners, spend cozy time by the fire, visit with family and friends, and enjoy the magic of the season. But with the happiness of the holidays also comes something scary: an increased risk of fire and other accidents. Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks to help keep you and yours safe and sound this holiday season.
Check Your Indoor Lights
Inspect your older lights. If the wires are frayed or bare, the sockets are cracked, or the cord is tightly kinked, replace them with new ones. Buy strands of lights that are flame-resistant. Look for a certification mark like UL or ELT to make sure the product complies with safety standards. Consider switching to LEDs, which are more energy-efficient and burn cooler than conventional incandescents. Don't attach more than three strings of lights together. Don't overload extension cords or wall sockets.
Know the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Lights
If you're stringing lights outside, make sure they have been certified for outdoor use. Only plug outdoor lights into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI. Hang by securing them to exteriors with clips, hooks or insulated holders – don't use tacks or nails.
Choose and Care for Your Tree Carefully
When choosing a fresh tree, look for one with green needles that don't break easily when bent. Cut a few inches off the trunk to expose the fresh wood for better water absorption to help keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Keep the tree stand filled with water, and monitor water levels daily. If you're buying an artificial tree, look for a “fire-resistant” label. Set up your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters and other heat sources. Place your tree out of the way of foot traffic, and don't block doorways or exits with it.
Make Your Tree Festive and Safe
Opt for holiday decorations that are made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant and non-combustible materials. Choose tinsel and artificial icicles made of plastic and non-leaded metals. Don't use electric lights on a metallic tree. Don't use candles to decorate trees.
Use Caution with Fireplaces, Space Heaters and Candles
Before lighting any fire, check to see that the flue is open. Keep evergreen boughs, paper and other decorations away from the fireplace. Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. Inspect all space heaters before using them. Keep burning candles within sight on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Give them at least 12 inches of clearance on all sides, and place them where they will not be knocked down. Keep them away from flammable materials like trees, decorations, curtains and furniture. Consider switching from wax to flameless candles, which operate on battery power.
Keep a Sharp Eye on the Kitchen
Did you know that unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.? Don't leave the kitchen when anything is cooking. Keep kitchen towels, oven mitts, appliance cords, curtains and other flammable items away from your stovetop. Don't throw hot grease in the garbage can. Keep at least one working fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.
Get a home alarm system, and use it when you travel. Lock all doors and windows, keep indoor lights on a timer, and consider leaving a radio or TV on while you're gone. If you'll be away for longer periods, ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail and newspapers and keep your walks cleared of snow. Don't openly display gifts in front of windows, and don't hide your spare key in obvious places. Don't discuss your plans with strangers, and don't post your travel plans on social media networks or other places online.
Watch Out for Children and Pets
If you have small children, avoid decorations that are sharp and breakable, and hang ornaments with moving parts out of their reach. Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of reach of children and pets, or discard them. Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations. Keep poinsettias out of reach of cats and dogs. Don't decorate with tinsel if you have small children or pets. Don't leave children and pets alone by fireplaces or space heaters, and keep children at least three feet away from fireplaces.
Be Prepared, and Have an Emergency Plan.
Have your furnace checked and your chimney cleaned by professionals annually. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas, and check the batteries every month to make sure they work. Have a fire evacuation plan; if you already have one, do a practice run. Keep at least one working fire extinguisher on hand. If your fire extinguisher is on the list of recently recalled ones, replace it.
Turn It All Off Every Night
When you go to bed, turn off all the holiday lights, unplug the tree, blow out all candles, check that space heaters are off and fireplaces are out, and turn off all outdoor decorations. Consider automating your shut-down process by using light timers for indoor and outdoor decorations.
We wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!