How to Decorate Safely for the Holidays
Part of the joy of the holiday season is decorating your home. Getting out the wreaths, lights, and other supplies from storage. Moms and dads dust them off and put them up around the house. This sparks nostalgia, smiles, and warm memories. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be dangerous. Outdated electric items or carelessness can turn a happy season into a tragic one. Follow these tips to decorate safely for the holidays.
Check your smoke alarms.
Make sure they’re in good working order ahead of the holiday season.
Also, go over an emergency exit plan with your kids. They should know the drill and where to safely meet outside in case of a fire or other emergency.
Every decorative item in your home comes with a user manual or set of instructions. This helps you to use it properly and thus avoid disaster.
Pro tip: Cover all electrical outlets not in use.
Inspect light cords.
Make sure they aren’t broken, cracked, or frayed in any way. A bulb belongs in each socket, don’t leave anything unconnected. Also, discard and replace damaged strands.
Don’t bundle more than three strands together for every outlet or extension cord. Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house. Use timers so you won’t forget.
Cords should go in low-traffic areas where they won’t be walked on. This helps to avoid trips or falls. In addition, don’t twist or crush wires.
Secure outside lights.
Fasten lights securely to your home. Keep them away from overhead power lines.
Purchase lights approved by Underwriters Laboratory “UL”, which will be clearly displayed on the tag. This means the lights have been inspected for any safety hazards. Red labels indicate the lights are safe for indoor or outdoor use. Green UL means the lights are only for indoor use.
Pro-tip: When you’re trying to decorate safely, don’t hammer tacks or nails into the electrical cord. Rather, attach them to the house using clips purchased at a hardware store.
Use heavy-duty extension cords marked clearly for outdoor use. Like inside precautions, only utilize three strands per cord.
All outdoor lights, including those with inflatable decorations, must be plugged into outlets protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI.) This prevents electrocution.
You can also secure outside lights to sturdy trees. When buying hooks or nails for outside use, buy them insulated. This will help avoid electrocutions and fires.
When taking them down, don’t pull or tug on lights. Immediately throw away any frayed or damaged wires.
Utilize a partner.
When hanging lights or other decorations, make sure you’re not alone. This is especially true if you’re using a ladder.
Make sure there is someone working with you. Someone who can hand you items or hold the ladder to keep it steady. This person should also be able to operate a phone and call 911 if something goes wrong.
Wear shoes with good traction and avoid distractions to decorate and hang lights safely.
Watch those candles.
More candle fires occur in December than any other time of year. Therefore, consider using battery-operated candles. These give off the same glow and ambience without the danger..
If you must use traditional candles, make sure you:
- don’t leave them unattended.
- place them on a high shelf…out of reach of children and pets.
- keep them away from curtains, furniture, carpeting or anything that can catch fire.
- set an alarm/alert on your phone to remind you not to go to bed with them burning.
Look for fire-resistant labels.
Pro-tip: This should be on all children’s pajamas as well as seasonal decorations.
You especially want a fire-resistant label on any artificial tree you display. Keep such trees away from any sources of heat. This includes radiators, candles, portable heaters and fireplaces.
Pro-tip: Do not hang electric lights on metallic trees.
Avoid dry or dead live trees.
If you prefer to display a live Christmas tree, that’s fine. Purchase a fresh one and keep it watered. Dry or dead trees are a fire hazard.
If you’re not sure, bend the needles up and down. For instance, a fresh tree’s needles won’t fall off.
After you get the tree home, cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk. Then put it in the stand and keep the stand filled with water every day.
Follow the same instructions as any other decoration. And place the tree safely out of traffic and doorways.
Take good care of your fireplace.
Make sure the flue is open and clean. In fact, now is a great time of year to have your fireplace inspected and maintained to ensure it’s safe to use.
Don’t light a fire with stockings or other decorations hanging from the mantel. And again, make sure the fire is out completely before leaving the house or going to bed.
Toss any outdated supplies.
Go through and read the labels of old decorations. For example, throw away anything that’s lead-based.
Toss old tinsel or artificial icicles with labels you can’t read. They might contain lead. Light strands may have lead in bulb sockets and wire coating.
Wear gloves to avoid irritation with anything involving “angel hair.” Don’t breathe in artificial snow or paint.
Follow extra precautions to decorate safely when children are young.
Keep all lights out of reach of younger kids who might put them in their mouths. Be sure to wash your hands after using them to avoid spreading small amounts of lead or mercury.
Don’t purchase decorations with sharp or breakable pieces. Anything that can fit through the center of a toilet paper roll is a choking hazard for children under 4 years of age.
Discard wrapping papers, bags, ribbons and bows when you’re done opening gifts. Don’t keep them under the tree or near the fireplace. Not only are they fire hazards, they’re also suffocation and choking hazards.
Some holiday plants are poisonous. This includes mistletoe, Jerusalem cherry, and holly. Keep them away from small kids and pets.
Throughout the month of December, check items in use to make sure they’re operating properly. Holidays are a time for memories and good cheer. Taking the time to practice these precautions, and decorate safely, can also ensure a happy season for everyone.