The holidays are a time to reconnect with family and friends, but they also can present seasonal safety hazards. Here are some tips that we have collected from several sources to help you keep your home safe this holiday season.
Holiday Decorating Tips
Hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of people annually who are injured from falls involving holiday decorations. Half of those injuries are associated with falls, and some could involve extension cords. Here are some tips to make your holiday decorating safer:
- Never use furniture as a ladder.
- Follow the 1-to-4 rule for extension ladders: for every four feet the ladder rises, move the base out one foot from the structure.
- Always keep three points of contact on the ladder: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
- Inspect the ladder for any damage prior to using it.
- Use the right ladder for the task at hand.
Trees and Decorations
Between 2015 and 2019, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates an average of 160 home fires, per year, started with Christmas trees. Those fires resulted in an annual average of two deaths, 12 injuries and over $10 million in property damage.
- Live trees should be kept well-watered to prevent them from drying out, and should be placed at least 3 feet from any heat source.
- Trees should be removed soon after Christmas, or when they become dried out — 40 percent of Christmas tree fires occur in January, when the holidays are over.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets. Choose artificial trees and decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant, and don’t connect more than three strands of lights together.
- Check all cords and light strings to make sure they’re not worn or frayed and make sure outdoor lights are designed for that purpose. Unplug all electric decorations before going to bed. Use only UL approved extension cords and power strips.
- Candles should never be left burning in a room unattended, and should not be placed directly on a table, counter or other surface — they should be on a plate, a Menorah or a candlestick or candelabra designed for that purpose and should be kept at least 12 inches from curtains or other things that can burn.
Cooking & Dining
Just a few simple tips to keep the kitchen safer during the holidays include:
- Always have a cook in the kitchen.
- Don’t leave stove burners or the oven unattended.
- Occupy the kids away from the kitchen. Too many hot appliances and dangerous utensils.
- Keep prepared foods away from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
- Cook food thoroughly, using a food thermometer to determine doneness. Internal food temperature should be 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Refrigerate food within two hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- Ditch leftovers after 4 days.
Keep Chimneys Clean
Enjoying a cozy fire is a holiday tradition in many homes with a fireplace, and precautions should be taken to do so safely.
- We call this chimney fire season. People forget to open the damper or close the ash dump, or they sweep hot ashes down the dump and start fires. They burn unseasoned wood, or softwoods that produce a lot of creosote, which sticks to the walls of the chimney and is very flammable.
- The most important precaution to prevent such fires is to have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year by a sweep who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Fires should be built in the rear of the fireplace, with wood placed on andirons or a metal grate.
- A mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors should be used to prevent sparks or embers from escaping the fireplace. Keep children and pets at least three feet away and make sure ribbons, gift wrap, boxes and other flammable materials are cleaned up.
Cold Weather Precautions
- Have your furnace inspected and cleaned every year.
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heat sources.
- Never use an oven for heat.
- Portable space heaters should be UL rated and should shut off automatically if tipped over. Extension cords should never be used with a space heater. Space heaters should be turned off when no one is in the room, and when you go to sleep.
- Keep a working fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms each month to make sure they’re working; change the batteries twice a year.
- Have a fire safety plan, and make sure everyone in the family knows what to do in case of a fire.
Holiday Package Theft
More than 25 million Americans have their packages stolen right from their doorsteps by porch pirates each year—don’t be one of them.
- Track deliveries online and confirm delivery has occurred. You can sign up for email notifications to track your packages from initial shipment to its arrival at your home, or the recipient’s address if you have the gift delivered directly.
- If you know a family member or neighbor will be home, ask them to pick up the packages as soon as they are delivered. Reward them with fresh baked cookies.
- Switch delivery location to work where it can be received by someone and not left on the porch.
- See if the post office or store the product is being shipped from can hold the package for pick up.
- The post office will allow your package to remain safe and secure for up to 30 days.
Extra precautions need to be taken when shopping during the holiday season. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
- Park in a well-lighted space, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don’t overburden yourself with packages. Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
- Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
We have a few tips for your holiday travels.
- Ask a trusted friend, neighbor or Neighborhood Watch member to watch your home.
- Use timers for lights and radios while you’re away.
- Remember to make arrangements for mail and newspapers.
- Avoid aggressive and angry driving.
- Adjust following distance and speed in snowy or icy conditions.
- Designate a sober driver or arrange for a cab ahead of time if you plan to drink at holiday gatherings.