fire extinguisher with holiday background

Image: Uryupina Nadezhda /

The holidays are a time of joy and fun, anticipated throughout the year by kids and adults alike. However, a small decorating hazard can soon lead to catastrophe. So, be sure to avoid the following holiday hazards this year.

Forgetting About Christmas Lights Safety

Every year, poorly maintained Christmas lights cause a host of problems for families everywhere. However, you can sleep easy with the following safety tips.

  • Check all Christmas lights for signs of damage, and avoid using the ones with frayed or exposed wires, damaged cords or broken sockets.
  • Avoid using nails or anything that might damage the cords when putting up the lights.
  • Use LED epoxy lights rather than glass ones. They are more durable and release less heat, making them less likely to start a fire.
  • Don’t overdo extension cords, and avoid plugging cords into one another.
  • For outdoor lights, always make sure that the cords are intended for outdoor use, and plug them into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Keep the cables and extension cords tidy to avoid any tripping hazards.
  • Avoid leaving the Christmas lights on all night, especially if you’re not home or going to bed. Not only will this reduce your electricity bill, but it will also prevent any accidental fires.

Letting Your Christmas Tree Dry Out

A dried-out Christmas tree can be a truly sorry sight, especially when all its needles start falling off. Yet, it can also pose a fire hazard. So to keep your tree looking fresh longer, it’s important to keep it hydrated. Here are a few tips you can try.

  • When you bring your Christmas tree home, cut at least half an inch from the base of the trunk.
  • Place your tree in a bucket of water for at least 24 hours before decorating it.
  • Once the tree is set in place, you can also put a container with water underneath the trunk and top it up regularly.
  • If the air in your home is very dry, placing a humidifier next to the tree also helps.

When decorating your Christmas tree, it’s best to use LED light garlands. As stated before, not only are they more energy-efficient, but they also release less heat, thus reducing the chances of it catching fire. Also, it goes without saying that your Christmas tree should never be placed next to a heating vent or a fireplace.

For some peace of mind, you can always opt for artificial trees, which are usually coated with flame retardants.

Leaving Open Flames Unattended

The warmth and glow of an open flame can really capture the spirit of the holidays. However, it’s important not to forget that while beautiful, open flames can also be extremely dangerous.

As a rule of thumb, never leave lit candles in a place where kids and pets can get to them. Before going to bed, remember to tour the house and extinguish any candles that are still burning. Also, keep in mind that burning candles should never be used to decorate a Christmas tree. They may look charming in old-school postcards, but they’re a major fire hazard in real life.

If you have a fireplace, avoid burning anything in it that’s not wood. For example, wrapping paper can burn very fast and even cause flash fires, while colored inks can release harmful toxic gases. Burning plastic can also release harmful chemicals into the air, as well as unpleasant smells.

Cluttering the Stairs

Decorating your stairs is a great way to ensure that the festive vibe spreads out across your entire house. Yet if the stairs are cluttered with presents, Christmas lanterns and other seasonal knick-knacks, they can quickly become a tripping hazard.

You can easily avoid this by using garlands and wreaths to decorate the handrails and maybe setting up a decorative centerpiece on the side at the bottom of the stairs. Needless to say, if you have pets or kids, using lit candles to decorate your staircase is a big no.

Careless Climbing

Did you know that falling off a ladder is one of the most common Christmas injuries? To avoid any mishaps, always inspect ladders and stepladders before climbing, and make sure they’re set on a flat, even surface. If you’re decorating outdoors, keep the ladder away from power lines, and wear shoes with a grippy rubber sole. Or, better yet, use a ladder that’s made out of plastic or fiberglass rather than metal.

Using Toxic Decorative Plants

Garlands or wreaths with mistletoe, ivy, yew and holly are a cornerstone of the traditional Christmas home decor. However, these plants are toxic and can cause nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, and even seizures if ingested. Similarly, poinsettia can cause skin and mouth rashes, as well as stomach upset. If you have pets or small children, keep these plants out of their reach, or use non-toxic plants such as coleus, African violets or Christmas cactus.

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