By Sara Peterson, from NRECA’s Straight Talk
Before your family puts up a tree or hangs the stockings this holiday season, start a new tradition. Put safety at the top of your list.
Trees and lights are danger-prone holiday decorations. According to the United States Fire Administration, Christmas trees start an average of 260 house fires each season, resulting in more than $16 million in property damage. Another 150 house fires are sparked by holiday lights and decorative lighting, costing $8.9 million in damage. Typically, all of these fires are more severe and damaging than average winter home fires, resulting in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities.
Unsafe practices while putting up decorations are to blame for even more injuries. Nearly 6,000 individuals visit emergency rooms each year for falls that occur, and 4,000 more are treated for injuries associated with extension cords. Gifts trigger injuries, too. Toys that are not used as intended or used without proper supervision lead to avoidable accidents.
When it is time to deck your halls, take these precautions to ensure the safety of you, your family, and holiday guests:
- Make sure an artificial tree is labeled “fire resistant.” Be aware that “fire resistant” does not mean “fire proof.”
- Make sure a live tree is fresh and green. Dry, brittle limbs and shedding needles are a breeding ground for sparks. Water a live tree regularly to prevent it from drying out.
- Place any type of tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators.
- Do not overload electrical outlets. Most lights are designed to connect no more than three strands. Inspect the wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch.
- Never leave lights on overnight or when no one is home.
- Only use lights that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
- Replace any strands that show signs of damage, such as bare or frayed wires, broken bulbs, or loose connections. Faulty lights can send an electrical charge through a tree and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with a branch.
- Select gifts that are age appropriate for the recipient.
- Educate children on electrical safety when using any new toy or product that requires an electrical connection.
- Review all instructions and safety guidelines included with new products before you allow the child to use it.
Sources: United States Fire Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission