LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — Decorating homes for the holidays is a magical way to kick-start the season but families should be aware of the potential fire hazards and injuries that can happen if safety precautions are not taken.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 14,000 injuries related to holiday decorating in 2011. Trees, decorative lights and candles caused most safety mishaps.
“Hanging Christmas lights around or on the house can be one of the most rewarding times of the holidays,” said Senior Master Sgt. Derrick D. Mitchell, Air Combat Command ground safety superintendent. “You have an opportunity to show your creativity and enthusiasm, but hanging Christmas lights can also be very dangerous.”
Christian Jacobs, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department fire inspector and Mitchell, provided a few simple tips to help keep the holiday season merry as Airmen and their families deck the halls.
Christmas Lights Safety Tips
· Purchase indoor and outdoor lights that have been tested for safety. Identify the lights by labels from an independent testing laboratory.
· Inspect and replace holiday lights with frayed wires, bare spots and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
· Fasten outdoor and indoor lights securely. Avoid using nails or tacks, try using hooks or insulated staples instead.
· Do not hang lights where they obstruct doorways and other evacuation points in the house during an emergency.
· Unplug all lights on trees and other decorations when leaving home or going to bed.
· Be aware to not overload the electrical circuit when plugging lights into a wall outlet.
Jacobs recommends plugging Christmas lights directly into a wall outlet and not into a surge protector.
“When you use a surge protector it is very easy to overdraw what your circuit can pull out,” said Jacobs. “If you overload the surge protector you can cause it to catch on fire.”
In addition to decorative lights, candles are used when decorating during the holidays.
“Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that can burn and make sure to blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to sleep,” Mitchell said. “Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily, place candles on uncluttered surfaces.”
The Christmas tree is another staple of the holiday season that comes with some safety risks.
Christmas Tree Safety Tips
· When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one that has been labeled fire resistant and tested by an independent testing laboratory such as, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL). The label that specifies the approved testing is usually located on the outside of the box or the tree may have an attached tag with the information.
· If purchasing a live tree, choose a tree with fresh green needles that do not fall off when touched.
· Cut 2” from the base trunk before placing the tree in the stand.
· Hydrate the tree every day without fail. A dried-out tree can catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered.
· Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
· Avoid decorations that are breakable and sharp.
· When using ornaments on tree, be careful for small children. Keep small parts out of children reach to avoid a choking incident.
“Purchasing a smoke detector ornament goes a long away,” Jacobs said. “They look just like a regular ornament that you hang on your tree but it alarms just like your home smoke detector when something is not right.”
Jacobs suggested using the ornament on either a live or an artificial tree.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), falls from ladders while stringing lights and hanging decorations are increasing.
ACC has provided a few safety tips when using a ladder this season.
· Ensure that you have the right ladder and tools to accomplish the task.
· Ladder should be placed on a stable surface to prevent it from falling during use.
· Wear proper footwear.
· Do not use a broken or faulty ladder.
· Don’t reach too far outside the ladder and ask someone to help you get the materials up and down the ladder.
The Center for Disease and Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 6,000 people are treated in emergency departments every year for holiday decorating falls.
Following a safety checklist like pilots can keep you from celebrating the holidays in the hospital.