Christmastime is here again! Family and friends will gather to celebrate and be merry. Safety is also stressed this time of year — don’t drink and drive, plan ahead for winter weather, stay home if you are sick. But there are other risks to consider that you may not think about when it comes to decorating your home with holiday cheer.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that, between 2015-2019, U.S. fire departments responded to a combined average of 8.350 fires, causing 93 deaths, 708 injuries, and $314 million in direct property damage annually. The three main causes? Christmas tree fires, holiday decorations, and candles. Improper electrical connections and lights account for half of Christmas tree fires. The good news is that these fires are preventable with some easy steps towards holiday safety.
Follow these simple steps for holiday safety:
To stay safe indoors:
- Make sure your Christmas tree does not dry out. The needles should stay on when you touch them.
- Water your Christmas tree daily.
- Keep your Christmas tree at least three feet away from heat sources, like fireplaces, heating ducts, radiators, candles, and other lights, to name a few.
- Make sure that all exits are free and clear of the tree or holiday decorations.
- Check all lights for burnt out bulbs, faulty connections, or exposed wiring. Test them to make sure they work properly before hanging them on the tree or elsewhere.
- Indoor lights are for indoor use only, outdoor lights are for outdoor use only.
- Check to see how many light strands can be safely connected to each other. This is determined by the maximum conductivity rating and wattage of the outlet they are plugged into. Check out Backyard Boss’s guide for more technical information and the math equation to determine how many Christmas lights you can string together.
- Use a power strip with a surge protector. This will trip if the circuit is overloaded, and is easier to address than blowing a fuse for the house.
- Do not overload outlets or power strips.
- Always unplug lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house.
To stay safe outdoors:
- Use lights and decorations rated for outdoor use only.
- Use extension cords that are rated for outdoor use.
- When wrapping a tree in lights, start from the bottom of the trunk and work upward, finishing with the branches. There are online Christmas light calculators available to help determine how many lights you may need.
- Consider attaching lights with twine, wire or tape to outdoor trees to avoid damaging branches and ends.
- Staples should never be used to attach lights to trees. They damage the tree.
- Do not hang lights or decorations on newly planted saplings or young trees. The weight can damage them. Full, healthy trees only, please.
- Set your lights and decorations on a timer so that they are not on day and night. This reduces the risk of overheating and also prolongs their lifespan.
- Avoid injuries by keeping walkways well lit, and free of snow and ice.
- Take down your lights and decorations after the holidays. Leaving lights on trees or bushes year-round can impede growth and cause damage. This can also increase risk of wear and tear to the lights themselves, increasing fire risk when used again. Not to mention what squirrels could do….
After the festivities end
Come January 2022, it will be time to clean up and pack things away until next year. Real Christmas trees can be recycled. Local waste management companies have their own policies and procedures for tree disposal. Check with your local provider for specifics. There are various charities and organizations locally that provide recycling services:
- In the greater Vancouver area: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/page/holiday-recycling-and-reuse
- In the Portland Metro area: https://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/OregonTreeRecyclingDisposal.php
May the warmth you feel together come from within, not from a holiday fire. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!