Safety Tips from the Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council
Christmas Season Safety Tips
The Heart of America Fire Chiefs would like to remind consumers that the holiday season should be merry and bright, not dangerous. Avoiding hazards such as dried out Christmas trees, unsafe lights and unattended burning candles could prevent thousands of injuries.
"Sometimes people are having such a nice time during the holidays that they forget to extinguish candles," said Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Duddy. "Always put out lit candles before leaving a room or going to bed. Always keep burning candles within sight. Also, make sure your holiday lights bear the mark of a recognized testing lab to show they meet safety standards."
Here are some safety tips to make your holiday a safe one:
- 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 indicate the 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 do not break when bent between your fingers. 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 stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power lines leading from utility poles.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable; keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces; and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result since wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Do not burn Christmas trees in the fireplace.
If you have any questions or would like additional information on any of these topics, please contact your local fire department. On behalf of the Heart of America Fire Chiefs Association we wish you a very merry and safe holiday season.
Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212