The holiday season is officially here, even though stores have offered festive decor and items since October. When Thanksgiving's fantastic feasts clear the table, holiday shopping and decorating officially begin. Twinkling lights, elegant Christmas trees, and flickering candles adorn homes with festive delight. Yet these seasonal decorations leave some homeowners saying 'bah-humbug,' as holiday decorating transforms into a disaster.
The holiday trimmings do not always go as planned, from Christmas tree fire hazards to innocent candles setting tabletops ablaze. Follow these holiday decorating safety tips to keep holiday preparations from wrapping up into holiday hospital trips.
Live Christmas Tree Care
Visiting a Christmas tree farm or a tree lot enables families to discover their perfect tree for the home. Live Christmas trees smell amazing; the scent of pine amplifies the spirit and the festive ambiance of the holiday. However, these 'real' trees require diligent care. Once trees are cut, they are no longer growing and living. They must be preserved to keep their 'evergreen' sheen and that beloved scent.
Residents must water trees regularly. Keep the dish filled to provide adequate moisture to the tree. A dehydrated evergreen dries out, and dry pine needles create a mess in the home. In addition, dry trees also become a fire hazard. A dry tree will quickly ignite if a flame or spark is near the tree.
Michigan State University notes that a live tree can drink about a quart of water daily. Keep that tree hydrated! In addition, keep 'real' trees away from fireplaces, candles, and any other heat source.
Safety Tips for Decorating the Tree
Decorating a tree seems like harmless holiday enjoyment, and, typically, nothing spoils the fun of stringing lights, hanging ornaments, and placing the star or angel on the top. Every family and household chooses a tree of a different size. Large trees–especially live trees–can be cumbersome to decorate.
Don't stretch to reach branches; don't grab the tree and pull it towards you for better access. Trees topple easily, and this can lead to an injury. Always use a step ladder positioned on a flat surface when decorating tall trees. In addition, only let children decorate tree sections that they can access easily.
Is Tinsel Harmful?
In the past, tinsel used to be made of lead. Tinsel poisoning wasn't uncommon, as dogs and pets were drawn to the glittery strands. Today, tinsel isn't made out of harmful chemicals. However, tinsel can lead to a choking hazard for dogs, cats, and children.
Beware of Glass Ornaments
Glass tree ornaments are stunning. They also are fragile; broken ornaments can lead to injury and serious lacerations. Don't let children hang delicate glass ornaments, and be sure to sweep up any broken pieces if an ornament drops and shatters.
Don't Daisy Chain Lights on the Tree!
Large Christmas trees feature lots of light strands. All of these strands require an outlet. Homes also might feature more twinkling lights outside. The many strands of lights could inspire homeowners to use power strips for additional outlets. While using a power strip is fine, never EVER plug a power strip into another power strip. This is called 'daisy-chaining,' and it is a fire hazard.
Candle Fire Safety
Candles are beautiful. The tiny flickering flames create romance, a festive joy, and a comforting warmth. Many families love to add candles to a holiday dinner table. Of course, candles are an integral part of the celebration of Hanukkah, as the Menorah features nine candles.
The candle's flame is fire, and all heat sources represent a potential fire hazard. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that candles cause more than 23K house fires yearly! Be mindful when lighting candles during the holiday or any time of the year. Never leave a candle unattended, don't play with the hot wax, and keep candles away from flammable materials (including Christmas trees, tablecloths, and stockings!). Candles also should be placed on a flat surface to minimize fall risk.
Flameless Candles Extinguish the Fire Hazard
Many consumers forgo the traditional candle and opt for flameless candles. These candles operate via a battery, including a flickering flame that lights up with a tiny bulb. Flameless candles look like the real thing, and they create the same soft glow and festive ambiance.
Tips for Safe Holiday Travels
Not all individuals and families stay home for the holiday; many travel to see friends and family. Others vacation to a tropical location! When traveling on the highways and byways, be extra cautious and diligent. Check the weather before leaving, and always pack an emergency kit in the car.
When winter weather hits during travel, roads become slick, slippery, and dangerous. Other drivers might not change their driving habits, adding to the danger. Take travel slow when roads are messy, and keep headlights on to ensure other cars can see you. Remember to turn into a slide to gain control. Pull over somewhere safe in white-out conditions, like a hotel or gas station.
Those catching a flight for the holidays should be vigilant about checking updates. Airlines might cancel at the last minute, and it's always advisable to have a backup plan.
Before leaving for the holidays, check around the house to make sure no candles are lit and remember to unplug the tree and the lights decorating the exterior of the home. Always conduct a simple home walk-through before leaving for an extended period.
Have a Safe and Wonderful Holiday Season
The Wentzville Fire Protection District wishes you a happy and SAFE holiday season. Be careful when decorating this season, and be mindful of fire hazards from tiny candles. For travelers, take it slow during winter weather, and remember to check flight information (for air travelers).
About the Author
Wentzville Fire District is one of the largest fire districts in St. Charles County, covering 88 square miles. The fire district is committed to serving and protecting our community through the highest quality of fire protection, prevention, education, and community outreach.