Holiday Safety

The holidays are a wonderful time filled with family and happiness – but when proper safety isn’t observed they can become disastrous.  Decorations are beautiful, but they can also pose hazards to your family and your home.  Here are some basic holiday safety tips for you, your family, and your pets.

According to the National Fire Prevention Agency 160 home fires per year begin with holiday lights and other decorations, causing an average of 8 deaths, 14 injuries, and $8.5 million in property damage.  Therefore fire safety should be one of the top priorities when decorating your home.  One of the most important things to remember is to turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.  As simple as it seems, unattended decorations can quickly lead to fires.  It’s also very important that the integrity of all wires remains intact.  This means making sure cords to decorations are not pinched in doors, windows, or by heavy items.  Do not mount or support cords in a way that might damage the insulation.  Keep all cords clear of snow and standing water, and protected from weather elements.

You should always be careful never to overload a cord or circuit.  Match amperage of electrical devices with amperage rating of extension cords.  You can connect up to 3 sets of end-to-end mini lights together, unless otherwise stated in the item description.  Remember that you should only connect sets of lights that have the same type of bulbs, and the same number of bulbs per strand, because different light sets have different amperage.  For LED’s it’s said there should be a maximum of 210 watts connected on 22 gauge wire and a maximum of 420 watts connected on 20 gauge wire.  Again, since each bulb and string has different wattage, calculate your total to see how many strings you can connect.  Also remember to check the integrity and battery power of all your smoke alarms, and use battery-operated candles so you can avoid the hazards associated with open flames.

String lights are a huge part of Christmas for many families.  If you have these in your home you should always know the appropriate levels of caution.  Before hanging your lights, go through each string to check it’s integrity.  That means looking for loose or broken bulbs.  One or two dead bulbs may not seem like a big deal, but the remaining bulbs will burn brighter and use more electrical power, causing the remaining lit bulbs to burn out faster and instability in the string.  You also need to look for exposed wires and insulation breakage or corrosion.  If anything doesn’t look completely in tact, dispose of the light string.  Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.

Let’s face it, children and pets love to get involved in the holiday fun.  If you educate yourself on the potential dangers of your decorations it can save you a lot of worry and grief.  A little known fact is that many decorations contain potentially hazardous materials.  There are traces of lead in PVC string light insulation.  While there have always been these trace amounts of lead in the PVC insulation of Christmas lights, not all will come with a lead warning.  Never assume that lack of a warning means that they are lead-free.  Take precautionary measures whenever handling Christmas lights; do not allow children or pets to play with lights, and always wash your and their hands after handling lights.  Bubbling lights also contain fluid that can be dangerous when inhaled or ingested.  Snow globes can contain antifreeze and toxic organisms such as salmonella.  Snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled.  Styrofoam and tinsel can pose the danger of choking, as well as intestinal obstruction in animals if eaten.  Safer alternatives such as confetti can easily be used and look just as nice.

In the rush of the season it can be easy to forget the little things.  Remember to cover any unused outlets on extension cords with plastic caps to prevent children or animals from coming in contact with the live circuit.  If you have a live tree, it’s a good idea to anchor it to prevent tipping and falling, which could cause injury to your child or pet.  This will also prevent the tree water — which may contain fertilizers and bacteria – from being spilled and ingested.  Remember that pine needles can also puncture an animals intestines, so it is important to keep your pet from eating them.  If you prefer non-living trees, it may be a good idea to set the tree up a few days in advance to give children and pets a chance to adjust.  This way they can learn about safety and rules before the decorations go up.

Another important aspect of the holidays for pets is do’s and do-not’s in their diet.  Many holiday foods and decorations can cause illness and death in animals.  Plants such as mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and lillies are toxic to your pets.  Foods that your pet should not be given include chocolate, nuts, milk, salt, onions, garlic, chives, caffeine, toothpaste, raw meat, eggs, dough, grapes, raisins, avocados, gravies, and meat with a high fat content (such as turkey and ham).

If you keep these simple facts in mind you can keep your celebrating safe this season.  Happy holidays, everyone!

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~ by Ashlee on November 16, 2012.

One Response to “Holiday Safety”

  1. Thanks for sharing information with us, I will return every day to read more.

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