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Watch Out for Holiday Decorating Hazards

a couple with holiday socks on in front of a fireplace

Decorating for the holidays is one of the best parts of the season, but it can be dangerous when done incorrectly. To avoid holiday decorating hazards, be mindful of the dangers associated with Christmas trees, artificial snow, candles, fireplaces, and indoor and outdoor lights.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

If you purchase an artificial Christmas tree this year, make sure the one you buy is fire resistant. Do not buy a tree that does not include this important safety feature (which should be specified on the label).

Otherwise, make sure your live Christmas tree is fresh and hydrated. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a fresh tree:

  • Is green
  • Has needles that are hard to pull from the branches
  • Has needles that do not break when bent between your fingers
  • Is sticky with resin at the trunk butt
  • Does not shower needles when bounced

To keep your tree fresh and moist, cut off the bottom 2 inches of the trunk. This exposes fresh wood and improves water absorption. Keep your tree stand full of water and trim away dry branches as necessary. Use thin, nearly invisible guy-wires to secure large trees to the wall or the ceiling, and do not allow your tree to block foot traffic or doorways.

Keep your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, and all other heat sources. Remember that heating can dry out trees and create fire hazards.

Lighting the Candles for Hannukah and Other Holidays

Candles are a leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. To eliminate the risk, consider using battery-operated candles instead of traditional ones. If you must use candles, remember that a candle is an open flame. Always use non-flammable candle holders and keep candles away from other decorations.

Do not place candles in places where they can be knocked down or blown over and put out your candle when you leave the room or go to bed. Never let candles burn all the way down (blow them out before they get too close to their holders) and never use candles in homes where people use oxygen.

Safety When Using Indoor or Outdoor Lights

Whether you are inside or outside, only use lights that have been tested for safety (they should have a certification mark from UL, CSA, ETL, or another nationally recognized laboratory) and check each set of lights for damage. If a string of lights has broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, discard it or repair it before using (always unplug lights before attempting repairs). When possible, use LED lights instead of incandescent lights (they are safer and more energy-efficient).

Plan indoor and outdoor displays according to the number and location of available outlets, do not use more than 3 strands of lights per extension cord, and avoid overloading electrical outlets. Electrocution is a significant risk when decorating both inside and outside. Faulty lights can also cause fire hazards – no matter where they are. Lights can always short and start a fire, as well, so make sure to turn them off when you cannot supervise them (i.e., when you go to bed or leave the house).

When decorating outdoors, keep your lights at least 10 feet away from power lines. Exercise caution on ladders, and only use wooden or fiberglass ladders; metal ladders conduct electricity.

Never staple or nail electrical wires, and make sure your display is secure and safe from weather and wind. To reduce the risk of electric shock, you should also plug outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which can be purchased wherever electrical supplies are sold.

When decorating indoors, never use electric lights on metallic trees. Instead, put the tree under a colored spotlight to avoid electrocution. Always keep lights away from children, especially “bubbling” lights. Bright colors and twinkling or bubbling can tempt children, leading to broken glass and exposing toxic liquids.

Fireplace Safety

Before lighting a fire, clear the fireplace area and make sure your chimney and flue are functional and open. Use a screen whenever the fire is burning and be careful with “fire salts.” Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace or try to use old Christmas trees as firewood.

Artificial Snow, Ornaments, and General Safety Tips

Always read warning labels and follow directions carefully when using artificial snow. Do not inhale artificial snow, as it may irritate the lungs.

Use non-combustible, flame-resistant, and non-leaded materials when decorating your tree. If you have children, avoid ornaments that are sharp or breakable, resemble candy or food, and have small, removable parts. If decorating with spun glass or “angel hear,” wear gloves to avoid irritating your skin.

Keep an eye out for and eliminate obvious dangers, always keep matches, lighters, and candles away from children, do not smoke near holiday decorations, and do not wear loose clothes around open flames.

Most importantly, always have an emergency plan in case a fire breaks out. Know how you will evacuate your home and where you will meet. Don’t forget to practice the plan.

Defective Products and Other Concerns

Sometimes, you do your best to stay safe, and defective products cause problems anyway. If a candle explodes, for example, it doesn’t matter how safe you were while using it. The same can be said for flammable products without safety warnings and faulty lights that short circuit and cause fires.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a defective product during the holiday season – or at any other time – the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli is here to help. Attorney Gueli has more than 2 decades of legal experience, and he can help you get compensation for medical bills, missed wages, property damage, and other losses related to defective products.

We are available 24/7, so do not hesitate to call us at (516) 628-6402 or contact us online for a free case evaluation and personalized legal support.

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