As the holidays approach, the U.S. Consumer ProductSafety Commission (CPSC) is urging people to look for and eliminate potentialdangers from holiday lights and decorations that could lead to fires andinjuries.
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of people for injuries,such as falls, cuts, and shocks related to holiday lights, decorations,and Christmas trees. In addition, Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires each year, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property loss and damage.
Keep your family safe this holiday season by following these safety tips.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant."Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicatethe tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- 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. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin,and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators.Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the standfilled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do notblock doorways.
- Indoors or outside, only use lights that have been tested for safety bya recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safetystandards.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayedor bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extensioncord.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become chargedwith electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch couldbe electrocuted.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supportsto protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights throughhooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights couldshort out and start a fire.
- For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choosetinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materialsare hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always usenon-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knockeddown.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations thatare sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out ofthe reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces,and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a childto eat them.
- Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spunglass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lungirritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- Do not remove fireplace embers or ash, or if you do, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home or another structure.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown onwood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinalirritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result aswrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.