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It’s the season of good cheer and festive gatherings, complete with decorations, lighting, trees and more. While these things help set a jolly holiday tone, they also pose hidden dangers. These tips can help you keep your family and home safe.
1. Holiday Lighting All those twinkle lights help make spirits bright, but they can also start fires. Be careful to choose strands of lights that are flame-resistant. Inspect your older lights and make sure to replace them if the wires are frayed, sockets are cracked or the cord is tightly kinked. Look for a certification mark like UL or ELT to make sure the product complies with safety standards. Don’t overload extension cords. Keep decorations and other flammable materials away from lit candles. And never use electric lights on a metallic tree; a single touch can cause electrocution. Keep children and pets away from light strings or decorations that use electricity. Always turn your lights off when you’re away from home or going to bed.
2. Trees If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for a “fire-resistant” label. When choosing a live tree, look for fresh green needles that don’t break easily when bent. Set your tree up away from fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters and other heat sources. Heat sources too close to the tree cause roughly one in every six holiday tree fires. Be sure to keep the tree watered, and make sure it doesn’t block any main exits.
3. Decorations Older ornaments may have been painted with lead paint. If you even suspect they were, don’t display them, especially if you have children. Use only nonflammable or fire retardant ornaments. With children in the home, be sure your ornaments are unbreakable and free of sharp edges. Also, hang ornaments with moving parts out of your child’s reach.
4. Entertaining As you’re preparing for guests, keep these safety tips in mind.
*Don’t leave the kitchen when anything is cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. Two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen.
*Poinsettias are festive. While they are NOT poisonous to pets, according to veterinary experts, they are mildly toxic and CAN cause nausea, vomiting and skin irritation. Keep them out of your pet’s reach or avoid displaying them at all.
*Be sure the fireplace flue is open BEFORE you light the fire. Keep evergreen boughs, paper and decorations away from the fireplace. Never burn wrapping papers in the fireplace.
5. Security While you’re busy enjoying holiday events, criminals are busy watching your home. So be extra careful about locking doors and windows when you leave home. You should also:
*Leave a radio or TV on so it looks like someone is home.
*Keep indoor lights on a timer.
*Not openly display gifts in front of windows.
*Ask someone to pick up your mail or newspaper if you’ll be gone for longer periods.
*Not hide the spare key in obvious places. Burglars know to look under doormats, rocks, flowerpots and above the door.
*Reproduced from NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week website, www.firepreventionweek.org. ©2014 NFPA.