Holiday decorating plans do not normally include lacerations, falls and fires. Unfortunately, these hazards make an unwelcome appearance in the homes of thousands of consumers each year. To help avoid hidden decorating dangers, health and safety authorities provide families with tips for a safe holiday home this time of year. The following information has been adapted from various official online documents. See Sources tab for original articles.
Health and safety authorities suggest using the following safety tips to help keep your holiday home safe this year:
Trees and Decorations:
• Buying live trees, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and, when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. Remove the tree within 10 to 14 days. After that amount of time in a heated building, even the freshest tree can start to dry out.
• Setting up a tree at home, place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels daily and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree. Place the tree in a stand that will hold 2 to 3 litres of water and top it up daily. Make sure it is always immersed in water: If water drops below the trunk, the stem may reseal itself, requiring a fresh cut. Use a tree stand that has widespread legs for better balance. Never use lighted candles on the tree.
• Buying an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
• Decorating a tree in homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
• Avoid using angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes; this combination is highly combustible.
• Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as UL. Lights for both indoor and outdoor usage must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. On most decorative lights available in stores, UL's red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor usage. UL's holographic label, with the green UL Mark, signifies it meets requirements for only indoor usage. Use Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified light strings/sets.
• Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree. Ensure that the voltage and/or wattage marked on the light set is compatible with the replacement light. This is especially important with mini-lights, as they come in different voltages. Always unplug the light string before trying to replace a bulb.
• Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use. Do not overload circuits.
• Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI. Turn off the electricity to the supply outlet before working on outdoor wiring. Keep electrical connections off the ground and clear of metal objects, away from puddles and snow. Use insulated tape to hold strings of outdoor lights in place. When using spotlights or floodlights to light your home or trees, ensure they are marked for outdoor use to withstand snow and rain.
• Use the proper lights for the environment. Indoor light strings/sets should not be used outdoors because they lack weatherproof connections. Some outdoor light strings/sets burn too hot indoors.
• Do not use electric light strings/sets on metallic trees. A faulty system could energize the tree and shock or electrocute anyone coming into contact. Illuminate metallic trees with colored floodlights placed at a safe distance from the tree and out of reach.
•Turn off all tree and display lights before retiring for the night or before leaving the house.
• Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
• Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture. Matches and lighters should be stored in a high place where children cannot reach them.
• 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 swallowed. Keep them away from children.
• Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
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