Holiday Safety Tips — From Christmas Trees to Candles

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Mom With Child Decorating For Christmas

When you’re getting ready for the holidays, you have a ton of things to do. No matter how busy you are, though, take the time to make sure that your home is safe. Make it a top priority. Just a little bit of effort can go a long way to keeping you, your family, and your guests happy and safe.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

As beautiful as Christmas trees are, they are also flammable, so you need to take precautions. Every year in the U.S., about 200 fires caused by Christmas trees are severe enough to require calling the fire department. An average of six people will lose their lives in the fires and, unfortunately, 14,000 will be injured. Property damage from those fires costs a whopping $16.2 million per year.

Christmas tree fires are not common, compared to home fires that start from other causes, but they are more dangerous. A Christmas tree fire is four times more likely to cause a death than other types of home fires.

Use these Christmas tree safety tips to help prevent fires:

Choosing a Tree

  • When shopping for a tree, look for one that is freshly cut. Don’t bring an old or dry tree into your home because it is more likely to catch on fire. Old and dry trees also burn significantly faster than fresh ones.
  • Look for fresh, bright green needles. When you touch the needles, they should stay on the tree. A trunk with sticky resin is another sign of freshness. You could also try bouncing the tree on the ground. The needles should not fall off.
  • If you are taking the tree home in a car or truck, make sure it is secure before you start your vehicle.

Setting Up the Tree in Your Home

When you get the tree home, be careful where you put it. One-quarter of Christmas tree fires are caused by trees being too close to heat sources. Keep the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, heat vents, or other sources of heat.

  • Don’t overheat the room because that can dry out the tree, making it more flammable.
  • Before you place the tree on the stand, cut a couple of inches off of the bottom of the trunk.
  • Put water in the tree stand, and add water every day.

Artificial Trees

  • If you choose an artificial tree, make sure that it is flame retardant

Christmas Light Safety

  • Be especially careful with the lights that you place on your tree or around your house. Problems with electricity cause one-quarter of Christmas tree fires.

Choosing and Maintaining Lights

  • All lights, extension cords, and electric decorations should be UL listed.
  • Some Christmas lights and other electrical decorations are intended only for indoor or outdoor use, so be sure to buy and use the right kind. Outdoor lights must be rated for outdoor use. Placing indoor-only products outside can cause electrical shock or fires.
  • Every year, inspect your lights before using them. Things to look for are cords that are cracked, frayed cord ends, loose connections, and bulbs that are burnt out or broken.
  • Consider using LED lights, rather than incandescent lights, because LEDs give off less heat.

After Placing the Lights on the Tree

  • Don’t plug more than three light strands into an outlet or power strip, and don’t max out all the available slots.
  • Always turn off the Christmas tree lights before you leave the house or go to sleep.

Hanging Lights

  • When fastening light strands to the wall, ceiling, or roof, use insulated hooks. Tacks, nails, or screws can pierce into the cables and become electrified.

Candle Safety

Candles are an obvious fire hazard, so be careful. Over a 5-year period, 86 people died in the U.S. from home fires started by candles, and 827 people were injured. Property damage costs were nearly $375 million. On average, 25 home candle fires are reported every day, with the highest reported numbers on Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.

  • To prevent a candle fire, keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from anything could catch on fire, keep them out of drafty areas, and make sure they are out of the reach of children and pets, who could knock them over.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.

Holiday Decorations Safety

  • Lacerations are among the most frequent type of decoration-related injury. Be especially careful not to cut yourself when handling sharp, heavy, or breakable decorations.
  • If you are decorating at work, make sure that lights and other decorations are fully compliant with OSHA standards.

Holiday Travel

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, New Yorkers are running around taking care of end-of-year loose ends, rushing to get in some last minute shopping, and dealing with what seems like a million details. During the winter holidays, traffic can be unpredictable, drivers can be reckless, and weather conditions can make the roads slippery. Be careful out there!

  • Drive slowly. Accelerating, stopping, and turning all take longer on snow-covered or icy roads than on dry pavement. Go slowly enough to give yourself time to maneuver.
  • Driving while tired can be as dangerous as driving when drunk. Shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts can be exhausting, so be aware of how you are feeling, and avoid driving when you are fatigued.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any road that is slippery due to moisture, ice, or snow.
  • Keep a winter travel kit in your trunk.
  • Be careful in the subway. Snow tracked in from boots can make platforms and train floors slippery.

Have a Wonderful Holiday

By taking the time to follow these simple holiday safety tips, you are doing the right thing for yourself, your loved ones, and your friends. We wish you all a wonderful holiday season from all of us at Raphaelson & Levine!

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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