The IBHS Holiday Safety Guide provides tips on how to enjoy your holiday season and reduce risks.

 

Don’t let this holiday season turn into a disaster. Use the following resources from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), National Fire Protection Association, and the U.S. Fire Administration to reduce your risks.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE

Purchasing the Right Tree:

Check for freshness of a live tree before purchasing. Buy a fresh tree that is green and needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. In addition, the trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. How important is having a fresh tree in your home? Watch the video below from NFPA and Underwriter Laboratories.

Tree Placement:

Place your tree away from a fireplace, radiators, or any other heating sources. Also, place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

Tree Maintenance:

Shorts in electrical lights or flames from candles, lighters or matches are typically the cause for tree fires. Provide plenty of water for your tree throughout the season to prevent a dry tree that is susceptible to these common causes of tree fires.

Artificial Tree:

Purchase an artificial tree that includes the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

DECORATE SAFELY WITH LIGHTS:

  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards.
  • Use only lights that have fused plugs.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
  • Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

PREVENTING ELECTRICAL FIRES:

  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • It might be best to keep it simple this year and reduce the number of strands you use overall. Even if you spread the strings out, the overall wattage may still be too much for your system.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
  • Use several power strips if you must use several strings of lights. A power strip is a safe way to plug several strings of lights into one outlet. Buy a high-quality model that has its own circuit breaker.
  • Frayed or exposed wires can easily overload your power once the weather turns bad. Moisture on electrical wires can lead to your circuits blowing.
  • Always turn Christmas lights off before you leave home or go to sleep.
  • Have an operable fire extinguisher readily available.

CANDLE SAFETY GUIDANCE

  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Consider using flameless candles in your home. They look and smell like real candles.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down – put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
  • Never use a candle if medical oxygen is used in the home.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles.
  • Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle. Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree
  • As in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times.

KITCHEN SAFETY GUIDANCE

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from hot food or liquids could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.