Have a Safe Holiday
Make sure your celebrations are happy and safe by following these simple guidelines.
- Get the freshest tree. When buying a real tree, make sure it is fresh and green! It'll last longer and be less of a fire hazard. To check, test the needles: They should be hard to pull from the branches; they shouldn't shower down if you give the tree a good shake; and if you bend them, they should not break.
- Buy a fire-resistant artificial tree. If you go the artificial route, look for a fire-resistant one.
- Choose a safe place to display your tree. Put it a good distance (at least a few feet) from heat sources like radiators and as far as possible from fireplaces. Do not put your tree in a doorway, next to a stairway, or in the path of heavy foot traffic.
- Give your tree a steady, sturdy base. Use a tree stand and make sure your tree is straight, so it won't topple over if your child gallops by.
- Keep real trees watered. Check water level daily to keep your tree fresh.
- Put ornaments out of reach. If your child is young, make sure she can't grab at the ornaments and pull them (and the tree!) down. Use only non-breakable ornaments on lower branches.
- Take down your tree promptly. A dry tree is a fire hazard.
- Check each set. Inspect both new lights and old sets for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Don't use broken sets.
- Don't over-extend extension cords. Avoid electrical shorts and broken fuses by attaching no more than three sets of lights to one extension cord. Use a power strip for extra safety.
- Turn lights off. It may be nice to come home to a lit tree, but it won't be very merry if a short starts a fire. Turn off lights when you go out and at bedtime.
- Don't put extra lights on electric trees. If any of the lights are faulty, the whole tree can become charged and carry enough electricity to electrocute you with a touch.
- Don't run cords under carpets. Electrical cords can become frayed or damaged and it will go unnoticed.
- Clear before you begin. Before starting a fire make sure your fireplace area is clear and clean of paper, decorations, etc. Also confirm that your flue is open.
- Screen fires in. Keep a screen in front of the fire while it's going so sparks can't fly out and little hands can't get in.
- Don't burn wrapping paper or ribbons. A flash or chimney fire may result. Burn only wood.
- Don't hang stockings over the fireplace. If you plan on starting a fire, move stockings away from the area.
- Be smart about candle placement. Put candles where they won't be knocked down or blown over. Keep candles away from decorations and wrapping paper. Never put lit candles on trees.
- Put fires out at night. Extinguish your fire and blow out candles when you go to sleep, or if you're leaving the room for an extended time.
- Watch out for foods that can choke. Foods like nuts, hard candy, grapes, and popcorn can cause children under 4 to choke.
- If your child has food allergies, be alert. If you bring your child to a holiday party or meal, be sure to ask about the ingredients in foods served, especially baked goods if he has nut allergies.
- Don't leave food cooking on the range. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires!
- Remember other people's houses aren't always childproofed. If you bring your child to a holiday party, look around to make sure there aren't any potential hazards.
- Don't let your child eat holiday plants. The pretty holly berries, mistletoe, and the bright red leaves on rhododendron decorating the season are toxic, so keep an eagle eye on infants and toddlers who are likely to want to taste everything in sight.
- Follow recommended ages on toys. Choose toys that are age-appropriate and watch out for smaller pieces that could choke your child if swallowed. If you're at a gathering with children of all ages, make sure your younger one isn't getting her tiny hands on toys that could be dangerous.
- Leave contact info for babysitters. Post emergency numbers and how to best reach you when you go out.