10 Holiday Safety Tips

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Dec 17, 2020
1 min read
The holidays are often a time for celebration and joy. Keep these 10 holiday safety tips in mind as you celebrate with your family.

NBC News reports that many Americans started putting up their decorations earlier this year, likely to capture some of the familiar feelings of warmth and joy many cherish during this time of the year.

However beautiful holiday decorations can be, there are still hazards to be cautious of when adding some sparkle and shine to your home, as well as over the course of the holidays. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that about 200 decorating-related injuries happen each day over the holiday season — many of them including falls.

And if you’re into holiday pop-culture, you probably remember Clark Griswold’s infamous ladder guffaw as he tries to put up the lights only to be left hanging from the roof.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are also the second and third peak days for cooking fires, according to The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), making cooking safety important as well. In this post, we highlight some key holiday safety tips so you can enjoy special moments while protecting your family and home.

10 Holiday Safety Tips for Your Home

1. Keep your Christmas tree at least 3 feet away from heat sources to prevent tree fires.

According to the NFPA, about 25% of wintertime fires are caused by Christmas trees that are too close to a heat source. Both real and artificial Christmas trees (even if they say they’re fire resistant) should be kept three feet away from a fireplace, space heater, or another source of heat. Even if an artificial tree is fire resistant, the coating can still be burned off and potentially lead to an even larger fire.

2. For live Christmas trees, check the needles and be sure to water them regularly.

If you’re planning to purchase a live Christmas tree, be sure to check to see if the needles will easily fall off when touched. If so, that’s an indication of dryness, which could potentially pose a fire hazard. The CPSC demonstrates how fast a dry Christmas tree can burn over a well-watered Christmas tree. While shopping for a live tree, check the needles to make sure they are firm, and once purchased, cut off two inches from the trunk to help the tree absorb water better. Try to keep it watered on a daily basis.

3. Purchase holiday lights that are UL listed.

While some lights are a bargain, they may not have been tested against safety standards. When looking for Christmas lights, look for those that are UL listed. This ensures that the product meets certain safety standards and has undergone testing. If you purchase lights that are not UL listed, you could be opening yourself up to a potential fire hazard. There are a number of UL listed Christmas lights available for purchase.

4. Do not staple or nail Christmas lights.

Contrary to popular culture and ease, don’t use a staple gun or nails for hanging Christmas lights. If the staples or nails puncture the outer cases, you could potentially electrocute yourself and create a fire hazard. Instead of stapling or nailing your lights,  use other supporting products plastic clips, deck clips, and hooks for your safety. If you’d like to hang lights in an outdoor tree or on the roof, you can also use a Christmas light pole to help.

5. Blow out candles before heading to bed and leaving home.

The NFPA found that more than half of home fires in December involving decorations are caused by candles. It can be easy to forget to blow out a candle, but always make sure that no candles are burning before turning in. You’ll also want to keep them at least 12 inches away from flammable objects, bedding, furniture, curtains, and others. For less of a hazard, consider battery-operated candles instead.

6. Turn off your Christmas lights before heading to bed and leaving home.

The glow from those lights at night can be soothing, but they could also pose a problem while you’re asleep. The NFPA reports that 18% of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights. Oftentimes, people will leave their lights on while they’re asleep, and while they’re away from home. Remember to unplug or switch off your Christmas lights before turning in or set them on a schedule to automatically shut off before bedtime. If you plan to leave your home in the evening, be sure to turn them off as well.

7. Hang Christmas tree decorations out of reach of children and pets.

We all know how curious little children (and even our pets) can be. Instead of hanging ornaments and other decorations lower on the tree, hang them in higher-to-reach areas. Also, consider shatterproof ornaments, wood ornaments, or yarn ornaments as safer alternatives to glass. If these don’t quite produce the look you’re going for, you can try tinsel, burlap ribbon, and other ornament types like animal figurines.

8. Reconsider toxic plants as indoor decorations.

While holly and mistletoe are iconic plants during the holidays, these can be harmful if ingested, especially for children. If a part of the American mistletoe plant is consumed, that could lead to gastrointestinal issues, according to The National Capital Poison Center. The Poison Center also reports that while ingesting parts of the American mistletoe may not produce symptoms in some, it may produce symptoms in others. The holly berries are also toxic and can cause similar complications. Poinsettias themselves aren’t toxic, but they could irritate the skin.

9. When using a ladder, make sure it is firmly and properly placed.

According to The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “about 200 decorating-related injuries [happen] each day during the holiday season, with about half of the incidents involving falls.” For hanging lights or other decorations in difficult-to-reach areas, make sure you set up the ladder properly. All locks need to be set in place, and you should also wear slip-resistant shoes. If you’ll be adding lights or decorations to the roof, The Red Cross recommends extending the ladder three feet above the roof.

10. Don’t leave food on the stove unattended.

Followed behind Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are also peak days for cooking fires (NFPA). And food left unattended while cooking has been the leading cause of cooking-related fires and deaths (NFPA). For holiday cooking, if you need to step away and another adult is in the house, ask them to keep an eye on the food for you.

The Bottom Line

The holiday season can be a fun and soothing time. Yet, making careful choices and decisions whether decorating or preparing food is essential for your safety. We hope you’ll find these holiday safety tips helpful this year.

Photo credits: With love of photography /wundervisuals / CLM Images / andresr / gmcoop / Christina Reichl Photography / GettyImages

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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