The holidays are upon us and, with the year that this has been, a bit more cheer than usual may be in order. However, it is key that, with all of the (much needed) holiday hoopla, we do not forget about a few basic, but very important safety lessons that can keep our homes and families safe this season.
Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree One of the biggest debates during the holiday season will always be, real or fake? You will find fanatics on both sides of this argument, more than willing to debate the virtues of sustainability or the importance of tradition, but either way, there are important safety precautions to adhere to.
If you choose to have a real tree, be sure that it is as fresh as possible when you bring it home, and be sure to provide adequate water (this could be surprisingly more than you would think). A dry tree is a massive fire hazard. When you buy your tree, be sure to look for needles that are flexible, as well as the presence of sap, indicators that the tree is fresh.
While it may be difficult to let go of the holiday season, resist the urge to keep your tree on display until the Easter Bunny arrives. No matter how hard you try, your tree will eventually dry out, becoming nothing more than a very pretty piece of kindling. Dispose of your tree relatively soon after the holiday and be sure to take it to an approved location, rather than the side of your house (where it will remain a fire hazard).
If your tree is of artificial persuasion, you still need to be mindful of its propensity to burst into flames. When purchasing a tree, be sure to look for the phrase “flame resistant” (flame retardant is NOT the same thing). If your tree comes pre lit, it should also have a certification stating that the lighting has been tested and approved safe.
Regardless of whether your tree is real or fake, be sure that you are considerate of your placement. While the image of a well-adorned tree, situated next to a festive, roaring fire, with stockings neatly placed on the mantle, may stir within you a Rockwellesque sense of the season, placing your elegant evergreen anywhere near a heat source is a surefire (pun intended) way to ensure the fire department visits your home this holiday season. Avoid placing a tree close to the fireplace, lamps, candles or heaters.
Just to be safe, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, even if you follow every safety protocol there is. Better safe than sorry.
Light up my Life Just like pre lit trees, both indoor and outdoor lights should come with a seal approval from an appropriate laboratory, denoting their safety. Once you have verified that your lights have met this standard, or purchased new ones that do, be sure that you only use said lights for their intended purpose; outdoor lights stay outside and indoor lights stay inside. The two are NOT interchangeable, unless they are clearly marked as such on the package.
Before stepping on that ladder, be sure to check for damage, such fraying cords or broken bulbs.
Don’t link too many strands of lights together. Typically, for incandescent lights, the consensus is that no more than two strings should be linked (to be safe). Newer, LED lights, however, allow for significantly more lights to be strung together. Additionally, when affixing lights to the outside of your home, never use nails, staples or tacks. These methods can damage strands, leading way to potential fire hazards, or even electrical shock to the holiday-minded handyman. You're best off using plastic contraptions specifically designed for this purpose, which can be reused year after year, and purchased online or at your local hardware store.
Never leave the lights on overnight, or when you are not home. It’s tempting to leave your glorious light show glowing at all times to dazzle the neighborhood, and the thought of depriving them of even just one moment of it, even in the middle of the night, breaks your heart, but resist the urge. Even a well-installed display can pose risk, so it's best if you only supply it with power when you are able to tend to it. Trust us, the neighborhood will understand.
Be sure that you do not overload outlets and/or extension cords. It is also important to be sure that any extension cords that you are using outside are specifically rated for outdoor use. Outdoor extension cords are manufactured with rubber or plastic covers that provide extra insulation. Indoor cords simply aren’t as durable and cannot stand up to the elements, especially if you live in a colder climate or receive any amount of precipitation. If you are using the same outdoor cords year after year, be sure to check them before use. Even these beefy cords will break down over time.
Baby it’s Cold Outside The holidays mean colder weather and, in order to escape Jack Frost’s icy grip, some seek the aid of space heaters. While the space heaters being manufactured and sold today are considerably safer than those of years past, they still account for a staggering number of home fires. In 2018, The National Fire Protection Association reported that space heaters were responsible for 43 percent home heating fires in the United States.
In order to keep your home safe while utilizing a space heater, be sure to keep the unit at least three feet away from anything that could potentially burn (a safer bet would be to simply keep it at least three feet from ANYTHING). In addition, remember to ALWAYS keep space heaters on the floor, never on an elevated surface.
Be sure to turn off all space heaters before going to sleep. Even though it is enticing to keep that baby cranked up to fight off the nighttime shivers, in order to keep you and your family safe, they MUST be powered off when you are sleeping, or even leave the room.
To all a Good Night So sing some carols, light the tree, menorah and your whole house. Take a moment to appreciate those around you, and any good that you have experienced in this crazy year. Most importantly, do what you can to keep your home, and everyone in it safe this holiday season, and every season.
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