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Holiday Decorating: Keep it Safe

holiday house

Now that Thanksgiving is over, many consumers turn their attention towards the December holidays. Holiday parties, gift shopping, and family gatherings keep us busy this month. And one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit is to decorate your home. 

According to a consumer survey by Electrical Safety Foundation International, more than 86% of Americans decorate their homes for the winter holidays. Two thirds of those surveyed use electric lights when decorating inside their homes, with more than 60% using at least one extension cord.

But decorating comes with potential risks. The Consumer Products Safety Commission says there are about 250 injuries per day during the holiday season, resulting in over 12,000 emergency room visits. Risks include ladder falls when decorating, electrical hazards, and fires. Following some common sense safety tips can help keep you, your family, and your home safe this holiday season.

1. Lights: Check all light sets you're using for decorating. Make sure there are no frayed or bare wires and that all light sockets are intact with no cracks. If purchasing new light sets, make sure they're tested for safety by a testing laboratory such as UL. If you're using lights to decorate the exterior of your home, make sure they're rated for outdoor use. Don't use nails to hang outdoor lights, opting for plastic hangers instead. If attaching lights to your gutter system or around your window frames, take care not to damage them or overload them with too much weight.

2. Trees: If you're purchasing a live tree, it's important to buy the freshest tree available. Bend the needles; if the tree isn't fresh the needle will break. To ensure freshness, visit a local tree farm where you can choose and cut down your very own tree. Or opt for a live tree with the root ball still attached, which you can replant into your yard after the holidays. For artificial trees, be sure it's listed as fire resistant. Whether live or artificial, keep your tree away from any heat source such as a fireplace, space heater, or directly over a heating vent.

3. Decorations: Be sure that all tree decorations are fire resistant. If you have small children or pets in the home, select shatterproof decorations. Any breakable or treasured items should be hung towards the top of the tree, away from curious little hands.  And avoid decorations with small parts that could pose a choking hazard. When you're not in the room, unplug your tree lights from the outlet in the event that your pet decides to chew on the wires.

4. Candles: The open flame of a candle is a fire hazard. Only burn candles when you're in the room, and extinguish them when you leave the room. Make sure the candles are placed on a flat surface that's heat resistant. For candle placement in windows, choose electric or battery operated candles to safely produce a warm glow when viewed from the outdoors. Battery operated pillar candles are available, with many that have a flickering flame to mimic the real thing.

While the winter holidays are the most festive times of the year, be sure to play it safe. Use good judgment and common sense when decorating your home with holiday lights, selecting and decorating your tree, and creating a warm atmosphere with candles.