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Holiday home safety tips

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The holidays are a great time to enjoy festive decorations. Almost everyone loves a pretty Christmas tree, bright lights, and the glow of candles or crackling logs in the fireplace. But these fun traditions can also be dangerous if you don’t follow the proper safety precautions. 

So to help you have a holly, jolly and safe holiday, we put together some easy-to-follow tips from the experts at the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Trimming the tree 

Nothing says it’s the holiday season like a decorated Christmas tree. But there are a few things to consider to ensure this fun tradition doesn’t put your home or your loved ones in danger.  

  • Pick a good evergreen. Dry Christmas trees are fire hazards. So if your holiday traditions call for a real tree, make sure you’re buying the freshest one possible.  

    Christmas trees should be a healthy green color, and if you bend the needles between your fingers, they shouldn’t break. Another freshness marker is the cut portion of the trunk—it should be sticky with resin. To keep your tree from drying out quickly, cut two inches off the trunk’s base so the newly exposed wood can better absorb water in a tree stand with wide feet.  

    Don’t have a real tree? Pick an artificial tree that’s fire-resistant. Just make sure you buy one that specifies this on its packaging. 
  • Use the three-foot rule. Trees should always be this distance from fireplaces and candles (as well as radiators, space heaters and heat vents). 
  • Remember that little hands can mean lots of trouble. Small children will be interested in the ornaments hanging from its branches.  

Keep ornaments with glass or small parts out of their reach, and avoid using ornaments that look like candy or other types of food because they might be tempted to give them a taste. 

Stringing up the lights 

It doesn’t matter if they’re multicolored or plain, decorative lights make the season bright. Whether you put them on your house, your tree or both, here are some ways to avoid any problems: 

  • Put safety first. Both indoor and outdoor lights should have a tag that proves they have been tested for safety. Only plug outdoor lights into GFCI outlets. 
  • Give them a second look. Whether old or new, lights should be checked for hazards such as broken bulbs, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. 
  • Never leave lights unattended. As pretty as they are, decorative lights should only be turned on when you’re at home and awake. Lights can cause a short circuit that starts a fire, so be sure to unplug them when you’re away or asleep. 
  • Don’t get too bright and shiny. It may sound obvious, but electric lights don’t belong on a metal tree. The tree could receive an electric charge that could electrocute someone.  

Tending the fire 

Candles and a fire in the fireplace can certainly warm that holiday spirit. But more than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, and fireplaces also require some caution. Play it safe with these tips:

  • Mind those flickering flames. Candles should be at least 12 inches from anything that burns (that includes your Christmas tree). Remember to always use nonflammable holders, and before you leave the house or go to sleep, extinguish the candles. 
  • Beware flash fire danger. Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can ignite suddenly, causing an unexpected burst of flame. 
  • Clean up the fun. Tossing wrapping paper and bows about is part of the fun of opening gifts, but clean it up immediately, especially before the fireplace is lit. 

Traveling for the holidays?  

How to eat healthy while you’re on the road to your family festivities.