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Safety tips for Christmas trees and holiday decorations

Christmas trees and festive candles are involved in hundreds of fires and decorating-related injuries during the holiday season, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“There are about 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the busy holiday season,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. “Make safety a part of your family’s holiday decorating this year. Keep your Christmas tree watered, check holiday lights before you put them on the tree and use extra caution with candles.”

CPSC estimates that from 2013 to 2015, there was an annual average of about 100 Christmas tree fires, resulting in 10 deaths, 10 injuries, and $12 million in property loss per year.

“NIST’s fire research demonstrates how important it is for consumers to water their Christmas trees to help prevent fires,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Dr. Walter G. Copan. “We’ve also collected data to assist firefighters in better predicting how fires will behave. To stay fire safe all year, consumers should ensure they regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.”

According to CPSC data, there were 18,400 injuries associated with holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide from November 2016 through January 2017. The most frequent of these holiday decorating incidents involved falls (38 %), lacerations (14%), and strains or sprains (18%). There were two deaths involving falls from a ladder.

Follow these tips to help make your holiday a safe one:

Trees and Decorations

  • Buying a live Christmas tree? Check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; and its needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. Keep trees well watered.
  • Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Setting up a tree at home? Place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators.
  • Decorating a tree in homes with small children? Avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of small children who could swallow or inhale small pieces.

Candles

  • Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before leaving the room.
  • Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface where children and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Place lit candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.

Lights

  • Only use lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • 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.
  • Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Check outdoor lights for labels showing 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.

Fireplaces

  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Smoke alarms

  • Have working smoke alarms on every floor of the home and in every bedroom. The early warning provided by smoke alarms saves lives.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month to make sure they are working properly.
  • Change batteries in smoke alarms every year.
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