Whether you’re bringing a live tree into your home or pulling an artificial one down from the attic, you’ll need to keep an eye out for these things:
Location, Location, Location: When placing your Christmas tree in your home, be careful to keep at least three feet of distance between your tree and your fireplace, any candles, heating vents, and lights.
If you’re putting up a live tree in your home, make sure you’re watering it daily. A dried-out tree is a far greater fire hazard than a well-maintained and hydrated tree.
Decorating the Home
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December is the deadliest month for electrical fires. Holiday lighting poses the greatest risk of overdrawing power and creating a fire hazard – something especially true of older light strands. Be sure to take heed of the following tips:
Merry and Bright: Take special care in inspecting holiday light strings before you use them. Discard any strands with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders, or loose connections. Before you replace any bulbs, make sure to unplug the light strand first and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb. Also, consider switching your lights to LEDs. These lights are far more energy efficient and burn cooler than their conventional, incandescent counterparts.
Lights Out: Always turn off your holiday lights before you leave your home unattended and before you go to bed. For an added piece of mind, use an outdoor timer to switch your lights on and off. When using a timer, make sure you use a CSA International approved timer.
Certifiable: Before purchasing lights, extension cords, spotlights, electrical decorations, and even gas appliances, and carbon monoxide alarms, look for the certification mark of an accredited organization such as CSA International, UL, or ELT to ensure that the products comply with applicable standards for safety and performance.
One and Done: Connecting more than one extension cord together can put you and your home at risk of fire. Instead, use a single cord that is long enough to reach the outlet without stretching or remaining taut, but not so long that it can easily get tangled and become a tripping hazard. The same rules apply to lights as well: stringing more than three strands of Christmas lights together and connecting them to a single outlet can cause overheating, resulting in damage or electrical fires.
The Great Outdoors: Keep safe from electrical hazards when hanging your outdoor lights by keeping electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Using insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails or tacks is an added safety measure. Finally, make sure the lights you’re using outside are intended for outdoor use.
Higher Ground: If you’re using a ladder to get some much-needed elevation for your décor, make sure you’re choosing the correct ladder for the job. Don’t forget to double check for a certification mark to ensure your ladder complies will all applicable safety standards.
Heating equipment, like furnaces and fires, causes many deaths every year in the United States. In fact, in 2008, the U.S. Fire Administration reported approximately 2,650 people were killed by house fires. Take the time to have a professional come inspect your furnace and clean the chimney before you need to heat your home. Fire hazards aren’t just isolated to the Christmas tree and the furnace – kitchen fires remain a risk year-round and we’re even more distracted by entertaining guests and family at this time of the year.
Keep the Gas Behind Glass: Do not use your gas fireplace if the glass panel is removed, cracked, or broken, and only allow a qualified service professional to replace fireplace parts. Also, make sure you’re extinguishing any fires before going to bed or leaving the home.
Sound the Alarm: Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work, and be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home -- especially near sleeping areas.
Filter-Friendly Furnace: To help prevent CO hazards in your home, have a qualified heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check of your furnace and venting system, and clean or replace your furnace filter frequently during the heating seasons.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind: It probably goes without saying that you would want to keep gifts out of sight of children, but you also want to keep them hidden from potential burglars as well. As nice as well-wrapped gifts look under the tree, it’s an open invitation for a burglar. If you can’t keep your tree out of sight, at least try to keep the gifts under wraps.
Batteries Not Included: Don’t forget about the electronics! Keep cameras, CDs, DVD players, computers, and tablets within your view and out of sight of potential burglars.
Clean the Clutter: Do not store combustible materials such as gasoline, propane, paper, chemicals, paint, rags, and cleaning products near your gas furnace. Gasoline or propane cylinders should be stored outside the home and out of reach of little ones.
Traveling for the Holidays
Under Wraps: If you are planning to travel during the holiday season, be sure to keep your travel plans off your social media networks. Never post where you are going, when you are leaving, or when you will be back. This is prime information for a thief because he will know when your house will be empty. Even if you have the highest-level of security on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, posting this personal information is never recommended. Keep in mind, some social media accounts may update your location automatically.
Checking In: If you are planning to go out of town during the holiday season, be sure to notify a trusted neighbor. Ask the neighbor to keep an eye on your house and report any suspicious activity. Having someone to pick up the newspaper and check the mail is also a good idea. The more your home looks lived in, the less likely anyone is to chance an intrusion.
We hope these home safety tips help and wish you have a safe, enjoyable holiday season!