10 Tips for Safe Holiday Decorating

christmas tree - holiday safetyTwinkling lights, Christmas trees and other holiday decorations can be cheerful, but also dangerous. At least 200 people are injured each day of the holiday season, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The CPSC has put together a holiday decorating guide and video geared toward keeping your holidays merry and bright and avoiding mishaps.The agency said 12,000 people were hurt in November and December 2009 in holiday-related decorating accidents, including electrical shocks, falls from ladders, candle fires and dried-out Christmas trees catching fire. Last year, 17 deaths and about $2 million in property damage were attributed to Christmas tree fires.

"Dried trees are highly flammable," CPSC spokeswoman Kim Dulic told Consumer Ally. "They can burn in seconds."To safeguard against a Christmas tree drying out and posing a fire hazard, place the tree away from heat sources and keep it watered, Dulic said.

Underwriters Laboratories -- the folks that put that familiar UL tag on products -- said it takes just a minute for a dry Christmas tree to become engulfed in flames.

Home fires sparked by candles have been linked to an estimated annual average of 150 deaths and $385 million in property damage, the commission said.

CPSC gives 10 tips to keep in mind while decorating:
  1. Check for freshness if you buy a live tree. If the tree is fresh, its needles should be hard to pull off and don't break. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and doesn't shed many needles when tapped on the ground.
  2. Keep trees away from heat sources like fireplaces, vents and radiators. Monitor the water level and keep the tree stand filled. Put the tree up in a place that doesn't block a doorway and won't get bumped into.
  3. If you get an artificial tree, look for a label that says "fire resistant."
  4. Child-proof decorations. Avoid sharp, weighted or breakable decorations if you have small children. Keep pieces with small, removable parts out of reach of children and avoid those that look like candy or food so that small children won't be tempted to eat them.
  5. When using lights, either indoors or outside, only use those tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing lab.
  6. Check each light set regardless if it's new or old for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections. Throw out any damaged sets and don't use electric lights on metallic trees.
  7. Make sure extension cords are rated for use.
  8. Check that outdoor lights are certified for outdoor use, and then only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected outlet.
  9. Keep burning candles where you can see them. Blow out all candles before going to bed or leaving the room or house.
  10. Put candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface where children and pets can't reach them or knock them over. Keep lighted candles away from things that can catch fire easily like trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.

"Home decorating for the holidays is a wonderful tradition, and CPSC wants to ensure that this holiday season is a safe and happy one," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum in a statement. "To prevent a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy, keep lighted candles in sight, check trees for freshness, and don't use lights with broken sockets or frayed wires."

The SafeKids USA network gives these tips to keep children safe during the holidays:
  • Trim tree branches back that are at or below a child's eye level and keep lights out of reach.
  • Don't leave a lit tree or light display unattended.
  • Don't burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Keep all alcohol -- including baking extracts -- out of a child's reach.
  • Color additives used in the fireplace are toxic and should be stored where a child can't get to them.
  • Artificial snow is pretty, but it also can be harmful if inhaled. Use it in a well-ventilated space.
  • If you hang mistletoe, holly, Jerusalem cherry or other berries, make sure children and pets can't reach them because they can be poisonous if swallowed.
It's not just the winter holidays that can be hazardous -- throughout the year each holiday carries its own risk.
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