'Tis the season of cozy family gatherings, spending time with friends and sharing the joy. It's also the season for flammable trees, combustible lights and poisonous plants. Is it Christmas or a deadly apocalypse? No need to panic. We can all get through the holidays if we keep an eye on our decorations. Whether you're following generations of family Christmas traditions or starting new ones, it's always good to review the safety precautions. Here's how to keep your home safe with all your holiday decorations.
This is a caution for homes with pets, especially pets that are curious eaters. Poinsettia plants are very common at this time of year but they aren't considered totally toxic. The sap can be an irritant and cause vomiting if your pet bites into a branch. However, mistletoe and holly are considered very harmful if the berries are ingested. It's best to keep those out of reach or outdoors.
The standard Christmas tree isn't toxic to pets, but if they end up eating a bunch of needles they could get a severe case of dry mouth. However, the Christmas tree is a leading cause of holiday fires. Precaution starts when you pick out your tree. You want an evergreen that is fresh. If the needles are hard to pull off the branch and resistant to breaking, it's a good pick. They old "stomp the tree" is another good test. As long as only a few needles fall off, you're in good shape. Once you get that tree home, you want to keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and heat vents. Make sure you water it frequently. If you have a dog with a wagging tail or curious cats, keep the breakable bulbs off the bottom branches!
When it comes to holiday lights there are indoor and outdoor varieties. You need to make sure you're using the right light for the right location. The older the set of lights, the greater the chance that the wires have become cracked or brittle. This can cause a spark, which can ignite a fire. Whether those lights are going on the tree or around the home, make sure you check the lines first. When you leave the home or head to bed, turn off your lights. For outdoor lights, you should plug into circuits designed with GFCIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters. If you don't have these on your outdoor plugs, get with a certified electrician to have them installed.
Never, ever, never, ever used lighted candles on a Christmas tree. In households with toddlers, keep ornaments out of arm's length. All the trimmings you use for your tree should be non-combustible and/or flame resistant. They should also be made of non-leaded materials. Check those labels.
If you are hanging stockings from the fireplace with care, make sure they are high enough to avoid the flames. Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. It will flare up and spread embers. Before going to bed, make sure your fire is extinguished. If you remove ashes, run them under water even if it looks like they are out.
These are all simple steps to follow to ensure your home will be safe during the holidays. Once you have the decorations up, send us the pictures!