Instead of braving the mall this Friday, I'll be unpacking my Christmas decorations. If the weather's warm enough I'll put up the lights outside and then tackle the tree. And I bet I'll have lots of company. As beautiful as holiday lights, candles and Christmas trees can be, they can also be a fire hazard. Whether you're planning to pull out your decorations this weekend or wait until December, here are a few simple precautions that you can take to keep your home safe throughout the season from the Home Safety Council.
- Carefully inspect the needles before buying a live tree. If they're brown or break easily, the greenery isn't fresh and poses a greater fire risk. Bend a few needles in half. If they snap, the tree is dry. Look for a tree with needles that spring back to their original shape.
- Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
- Never use lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree or other evergreen.
- Put your tree in a sturdy, non-tip stand filled with water. Dehydrated Christmas trees can catch fire more easily.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any flame or heat source.
- Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including other decorations and wrapping paper.
- Always use stable, nonflammable candle holders with a hurricane glass to protect the open flame.
- Use battery-powered candles whenever possible, especially when you combine candles with greenery or other decorations.
- Inspect electrical lights and extension cords for wear and tear and replace any cords that are beginning to fray or have broken sockets. Carefully inspect outdoor lights that have been exposed to winter weather conditions.
- According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), holiday lights are labeled temporary-use, seasonal decorative-lighting products. Temporary-use is considered to be a period of installation and use that is no longer than 90 days.
- Avoid cluttering outlets. String no more than three strands of lights together and make sure all lights bear the mark of an independent organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- When decorating indoors, use only those lights listed for indoor use. Unplug all lights—inside and out—before going to bed or leaving home.
photo: r. mcvay/getty images