Make safety a priority for the holidays

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752,

Joyce Cavanagh, 979-845-3859,

COLLEGE STATION – While the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, there are associated dangers that could take the mirth out of the season, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Injury from putting up  holiday decorations and possible fires from candles or frayed electrical wires are among the hidden safety dangers of  the holiday season. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

“Fires and decorating-related accidents are among the most notable dangers people need to be aware of during the holidays,” said Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension family and community health specialist, College Station.

The National Fire Protection Association has identified Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day as the top three days of the year for home candle fires in the U.S., Cavanagh said.

“In addition to candle or electrical fires, Christmas tree fires, although they are not as common, are more likely to do serious damage or result in a death than other home structure fires,” she said.

Cavanagh also noted injuries from placing decorations are also common during the holiday season.

She said some tips to help avoid fires from candles are:

— Keep candles at least one foot away from flammable items or surfaces.

— Do not put candles directly on surfaces. Use a sturdy candle holder with a drip plate for wax.

— Blow out candles when you leave the home or go to bed and avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where people may fall asleep.

— Replace candles before they burn all the way down or before the flame gets too close to the holder or container.

— In the event of a power outage, use flashlights or other battery-powered lighting instead of candles.

“To avoid Christmas tree fires, select a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched and add water daily to the tree stand reservoir,” she said. “It’s also a good idea to place the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source and make sure it isn’t blocking a door or exit.”

Her tips for helping people stay out of medical clinics or hospital emergency rooms as a result of injuries related to holiday decorations, include:

— If purchasing an artificial Christmas tree, choose one that is labeled as fire resistant.

— Take extra care when using a ladder to place holiday decorations, particularly when putting up heavy decorations with sharp edges or breakable components.

— Use lights that have been tested by an independent testing laboratory and place them only where appropriate.

— Replace old or worn-out light strings and turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

— Never use lit candles as a Christmas tree decoration. Keep any lit candles in sight and away from flammable items — and far from areas where they may be knocked over.

“The holidays are a time of joy but they also have the potential for danger,” Cavanagh said. “Being vigilant about possible hazards inside and outside the home can help ensure a happier, safer holiday season.”  


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