The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that during the November and December holidays last year, more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations. This represents an increase of more than 3,000 people since 2007. The CPSC, along with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) are offering safety tips to families to prevent these hazards.
Thanksgiving Day is the leading day of the year for home fires involving cooking equipment. However, as we head into the month of December, with holiday parties, Christmas dinners, and New Year’s Eve celebrations, people continue to cook food for family and friends, so the danger persists. Be sure to stay close by when something is cooking in the kitchen, and be sure that pot handles are turned toward the back so that children do not accidentally pull a pot of boiling food onto themselves.
The day after Thanksgiving, while some are out shopping on Black Friday, the rest of us are probably putting up the Christmas tree. The CPSC notes that injuries and deaths related to Christmas trees are down, but there are still an alarming number of incidents. Between 2006 and 2008, there was an annual average of 4 deaths and $18 million in property damage related to Christmas tree fires.
When buying a live tree, be sure to check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from the branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and when tapped on the ground, should not lose many needles. To keep the tree fresh, put it into water right away. Set up the tree away from any heat source and away from traffic areas.
If you choose an artificial tree, look for a label that states the tree is “fire resistant.” Although this doesn’t guarantee the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree has been treated so it is less likely.
On either type of Christmas tree, use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles made with plastic or non-leaded metals (lead is hazardous to children if accidentally ingested.) Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable and keep ornaments with small removable parts out of the reach of children and pets. It is best not to use trimmings that resemble food or candy, so that small children will not be tempted to try to eat them.
Ensure that all lights you use for decorating have been tested for safety at a nationally recognized laboratory such as UL. Remember that lights put outside should be certified for outdoor use and be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle. Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Make sure that all extension cords are rated for the intended use and that none are placed across a traffic area to avoid accidental tripping.
Keep live plants such as mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettias out of the reach of children and pets. Some are poisonous; others may cause severe stomach illness.
Candle fires are also a common cause of injury and property damage. The CPSC notes that about 130 deaths and $360 million in damage have been reported each year since 2007. Never use lighted candles on trees or near flammable objects such as evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders and place the candles where they will not be knocked down. Extinguish all candles before leaving the house or going to bed at night.
"A well-watered tree, carefully placed candles, and carefully checked holiday light sets will help prevent the joy of the holidays from turning into a trip to the emergency room or the loss of your home," said Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Follow CPSC's safety tips and give your family the gift of a safe holiday home."
"This is easily the busiest time of year, but it's important to make time for safety while celebrating the holidays," said John Drengenberg, director of consumer safety at UL. "By committing a few minutes each day to safety, many accidents can be avoided and your holidays will be memorable for all the right reasons."
For more information on keeping your home safe and bright this holiday season, please visit www.cpsc.gov or UL's www.SafetyAtHome.com
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