December in America is a time of tradition and celebration, thanks to the three major holidays that take place throughout the month. This year, with Hanukkah already at a close, Christmas and Kwanza are looking to steal the spotlight for the remainder of the year.
Despite their differences, all three of these holidays share common elements: the use of lights and fire. As a result of holiday traditions that use these items, our holiday celebrations can pose a real danger if not practiced safely. Consider these statistics:
-Each year ERs across the nation treat around 12,500 people for injuries related to the set-up and use of holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These injuries usually result from falls from stepladders or roofs, cuts, or shocks from faulty electric equipment.
-The CPSC also warns that candles start about 11,600 fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss.
-Finally, Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage. Causes of these fires often range from short-circuiting to damaged cords or plugs.
We want to ensure that all of us can enjoy the holidays safely – plus, good fire and electric safety practices are the key to keeping your property and casualty premiums low. Due to this, we’ve put together a list of ten tips that you can use to protect your home during the holidays; these are also tips that any business that has decorated for the holidays can follow:
1. Before putting up any holiday lights, review their packaging for the mark of a recognized testing lab to make sure that they have been tested and meet safety standards. Also, since there are different lights for indoor and outdoor use available on the market, it’s good to double check and make sure that you’re using the proper light sets in each area.
2. Before using your lights, check them over for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Be sure to throw out damaged sets and to replace any burned-out bulbs.
3. Check your extension cords and be sure that you’re not overloading them; a good rule of thumb is to use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
4. If you buy a real tree for Christmas, ensure that you buy a fresh one – this means looking for a tree that’s green, sticky with resin, and that does not lose too many needles when tapped against the ground. Once this tree is in your home, be sure that it’s set up far away from heat sources like fireplaces and radiators (and do not light any candles near the tree!). Give it plenty of water to keep it from drying out as long as possible (and dispose of the tree as soon as it begins dropping lots of needles, as this is a sign that it’s becoming even more flammable).
5. Check that the items you use to trim your tree are made from non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
6. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure that it’s fire resistant; note that while this does not make the item fire proof, it does lesson the chances of a fire starting (and should a fire start, it’s likely to extinguish quickly).
7. Never use lights on a metallic tree, as faulty lights can create a charge that could electrocute someone who touches a branch on the tree.
8. Do not put a tree up in front of a door or in a busy hallway, as this can cause an accident or even block an emergency exit in unforeseen situations.
9. Always double check that candles have been extinguished when no one is in a room or when you to go bed. Additionally, always turn off all of your holiday lights, from the ones outside to the ones on your tree (fake or real) when you go to bed; a single short in a light circuit or candle accidentally falling over can easily result in a fire.
10. If you open presents and have a fireplace, do not burn any wrapping paper in the fireplace; since wrapping paper can ignite quickly and burn intensely, a flash fire could develop right before your eyes.
Tips like these should be added onto the safety procedures we recommended using during Thanksgiving, since safety guidelines for cooking and keeping guests out of harm’s way should also be taken in account during December celebrations. Remember: taking these precautions will go a long way in protecting your friends, family, and your property during the holidays, allowing you to truly enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.
Our Fisher Widmann Flick Insurance Agency staff all wishes you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Stay safe!