With all the holiday joy does come stress and very real hazards. Time to put on my safety guy hat (the red one with white fuzzy trim) and remind you of a few things:
- Your tree is a fire risk, even if it is fake. As a retired firefighter, I recall the tragic event of responding to house fires where the tree was at the root cause. Christmas tree fires are not terribly common – but when they do happen they tend to be very serious. Keep your tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources. If you do have a real tree – keep it watered.
- Don’t overdo the lights (this one is really hard for me. My alter-ego is Clark Griswald). Look for UL symbols make sure the lights are approved for your application. If it is in ill-repair, frayed, taped together… don’t use it! Never use more than the circuit or power strip can handle. Even with all these precautions – you really should unplug indoor lights when you are away.
- Yes, candles are pretty, they are still open flames. The NFPA reports that December is the overwhelming peak for candle-related house fires. In fact last year 52% of decoration-related fires were started by candle use. Keep candles away from surrounding objects. Keep the wick trimmed to about a quarter of an inch or so. Make sure the candle burns evenly. Never leave candles unattended. Your smoke alarms working?
- Stop putting stuff other than hardwood in the fireplace! No, you don’t need to burn evergreens or old wreaths in the fireplace or woodstove. These cause massive creosote build-up in the chimney and make for spectacular chimney fires. Don’t put the wrapping paper in there either – too many components that are hazardous to breathe. Good idea to have your chimney inspected if it has been a year or two.
- Holiday favorites can really harm your “best friend” Cats may see decorations as toys – but when ingested it can be very serious. Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias are toxic to dogs and cats. Holiday leftovers? Just stick with actual pet foods no matter how hard they may beg.
- Watch the slips! In all the holiday rush don’t forget to prep the outside. Ice, snow, trip hazards – especially if you are expecting guests. Have you seen all those injury attorney commercials?
- Not all toys are a good idea. We do a pretty good job of selecting age-appropriate gifts for the kiddos. Remember that younger children always want some time with the stuff the “big kids” get. Some sources report as many as a quarter of a million toy-related injuries last year.
- Lock it up. If you are headed out of town, lock up, secure the decorations and tell the neighbors to keep an eye out. Outdoor lighting timers are good to give an appearance someone is home. And I know we all keep tabs on each other in social media… but so do the bad guys. Be careful about posting that you are away from home.
Most importantly remember the best gift you can give your family this year is a safe and healthy time with each other. Slow down, focus on the things that really matter. Prayers and wishes for a blessed and safe holiday season. God bless you all.
Frank Wampol, Vice President of Safety and Health