Every year, in the midst of what should be a season of warmth, togetherness, and joy, thousands of people are sent to the emergency room – sometimes with life-threatening injuries.
THE CULPRIT? Seemingly innocent holiday decorations, which can pose a threat to you and your loved ones, pets, and property.
THE SOLUTION? A little knowledge goes a long way. Gear up on some of the most common holiday decorating hazards and how to avoid them.
Fires: Whether they’re started from brittle Christmas trees, stockings too close to the fireplace, or candles (responsible for 71% of December home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association) left unattended, fires are one of the most common and dangerous hazards of holiday decorating. Make sure real trees are fresh and well-watered, and kept far from the fireplace (artificial trees should be labeled “fire resistant.”). Hang stockings three feet from the fireplace, and move them away when there is an active fire. Consider using LED “candles,” but if there is a flame, NEVER leave them unattended – and always remember to blow them out.
Faulty Cords and Electrical Equipment: Faulty, old, or overloaded electrical equipment can elevate the risk of both fires and electrocutions. Always check that cords are tested by a group like Underwriters Laboratories, and are neither frayed nor showing other signs of excessive wear (check out this handy infographic from the Electrical Safety Foundation International [EFSI] with more cord safety tips). Don’t let outlets get overwhelmed, either – tone it down a little with those holiday lights!
Falls: Ladder falls are no laughing matter; they lead to many serious injuries – the ESFI says 5,800 falls a year come from falls associated with decorating. Keep lights low, or consider hiring a professional to hang them outdoors if you want to go all out. (Falls can also happen because of people tripping over cords run under carpet!)
Toxic Plants: Misteltoe and holly are holiday traditions; unfortunately, they can also pose a toxic threat to both young children and curious pets. Care should always be exercised around children and pets, as small ornaments and holiday décor can be dangerous if swallowed. Long tinsels, ribbons, and garlands can also pose a strangulation hazard, so if they’re used, make sure they’re out of little arms’ or paws’ reach. There are also several helpful resources available online for free – the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a good “Check the Halls for Holiday Safety” guide – that can help you and your family stay safe and enjoy a very happy holiday season.