Holiday Safety – On the House

Holiday Safety

By on December 20, 2016

We have written about holiday safety every year for over two decades and we weren’t about to miss this season. However, when we do something over and over again, year in year out, we sometimes begin to question its importance to others. Then we asked ourselves, “How many times have the Rolling Stones sung Start Me Up?” And, “How many times did Frank Sinatra sing My Way?”

So, we made a decision. We decided to try to help you “start yourself up for your holiday season – the only way – the safe way”. No extra work, no extra bother – just a few simple reminders. Thanks to a little help from the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors and the National Fire Protection Agency; we offer an unbeatable list of personally embellished tips and things to look out for that will make for a happier more joyous holiday season for you and yours. Save this list of tips and ideas in your scrap book – it’s worth it!


  • Use caution with holiday decorations. Whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • Choose unbreakable ornaments and artificial icicles made of plastic or nonleaded metals.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
  • Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.


  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • When cooking make sure you wear clothes that fit tightly at the wrists or roll up sleeves. Tuck in ties, bows, or other pieces of clothing that could come in contact with a hot stove. Wearing a bib type apron will also help.
  • Turn pot handle in when cooking on the stove and be sure to set timers when you must leave the kitchen.
  • When finished with electric heating appliances unplug them from the outlet. Keep dangling cords to the back of countertops so young children cannot reach up and pull on them.
  • When kids are in the kitchen, provide them with something to do away from cooking areas.
  • Test all food prepared in a Microwave oven before serving to ensure it’s not too hot.
  • When cooking on the stovetop always have a lid that will fit the pan handy. If the food or grease catches fire, simply slide the lid over the pan and turn off the heat.
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.


  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.”
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
  • Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.


  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • To hold lights in place, string them through plastic hooks, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
  • Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • New inexpensive remote controls can be implemented to safely turn off exterior decorations during a rain or snowstorm.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use heavy gage extension cords (the lower the gage-number the better the extension cord). For example: 12 gage is better than 14 gage is better than 16 gage.

Fireplaces & Woodstoves

  • Fireplaces and wood stoves also add a nice touch to a festive occasion. Plan ahead and have your chimney, flues, or stove cleaned by a professional.
  • Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from the firebox area. Do not burn wrapping papers. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
  • Make sure you burn only clean dry fire-wood.
  • Check the damper to ensure it is open before lighting the fire and keep all combustibles at least 36″ away from fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Have a sturdy fireplace screen on the fireplace and do not allow children near wood stoves where they might be tempted to touch the hot surface or fall onto them.
  • When cleaning the ashes from wood burning devices remember that ashes can stay hot for up to 48 hours.
  • Always dispose of ashes into a metal container with a lid and place outside at least 15 feet from any structure including the garage.

Toys and Ornaments

  • Purchase appropriate toys for the appropriate age. Some toys designed for older children might be dangerous for younger children.
  • Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.
  • Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, or parts small enough to be swallowed should not be given to small children.
  • Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of small children and pets.

Children & Pets

  • Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out-of-reach, or avoid having them.
  • Keep decorations at least 6 inches above a child’s reach.
  • Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
  • Insure that ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments are shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
  • Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
  • Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
  • Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
  • Inspect wrapped gifts that you receive for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, or mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards to children and pets.


  • Don’t let the rush and excitement of the holiday season make you careless about protecting your home from potential criminals.
  • Use your home burglar alarm system.
  • If you plan to travel for the holidays don’t discuss your plans with strangers.
    Ask a trusted friend or family member to keep an eye on your home and pick up your newspapers and mail.
  • Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes.
  • Indoor and outdoor lights should be on an automatic timer.
  • Leave a radio or television on timers so that the house looks and sounds occupied.
  • Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home.


  • Careless smoking is a major contributing factor in the high number of fire fatalities that occur each year. If you also drink alcohol beverages this doubles your chances of becoming a victim of a fire. If you smoke do so only when you are wide-awake.
  • Use deep ashtrays with the holder in the middle of the tray so if the cigarette falls it will drop inside the dish and not onto the floor or furniture.
  • Do not smoke if you are tired, on medication, or if you have had too many holiday libations.
  • When disposing of cigarette butts, place them into a container with a lid, such as a coffee can for 24 hours before throwing them into the trash.

Oh, and have a very wonderful and Merry Holiday Season!

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.


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