Every Christmas holiday season, both fire departments and medical personnel go out on an increased amount of calls. The biggest dangers are falls and electrocutions from putting up Christmas lights as well as fires caused by cooking and improperly used or maintained Christmas decorations. Unnecessary tragedy is faced by families during what is supposed to be a joyous time due to shortcuts taken in safety measures and protective equipment.
Avoiding Holiday Injuries
Cooks get burned with grease and hot pans in busy kitchens. Small hand towels, paper towels and other combustible objects go up in a flash when they are left next to an electric or gas cooking appliance. Items being cooked on the stove burst into flame when a cook is distracted and walks away. This makes kitchens a prime place to keep a large commercial type fire extinguisher rated for multiple types of fires. In addition, adding a photocell type smoke detector that minimizes false alarms in cooking areas is also a good idea.
Falls from rooftops happen every year when Christmas decorations are being put up. Surfaces in some areas of the country may be slick with ice and snow. Falls from ladders also occur. Always use an appropriate ladder when putting up lights and decorations. Never overreach. Take the time to get off the ladder to reposition it. Always have a helper to steady the ladder and to keep strings of lights from getting tangled in the rungs of the ladder.
Electrical Safety Equipment and Concerns for Holiday Decorations
Every string of lights connected, whether inside or outside, needs to be plugged into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacle. Most newer homes have outdoor plugs that are GFCI rated. Each plug has a test button to confirm the protection circuit is working. Press the test button, and the GFCI should trip. GFCI units can be purchased as part of an extension cord or as a standalone product.
The tiny lights on most Christmas decorations do not look as if they will consume much power. However, outdoor decorations usually involve several different displays with many strings of lights. Light strings have a limit as to how many can be safely connected together as one continuous string. Adding more than the recommended amount of lights to a string can cause the wires to overheat, melt and short circuit. This is an electrocution and fire hazard.
Always check every bulb on every string and decoration. A broken bulb can arc across a bare filament and spark a fire, especially when they are strung on old decorations. A broken cord can also cause a spark or shock someone. Inspect every decoration with lights for any flaws.
Decorative Candle Hazards
Many decorations have a spot for a votive, pillar or stick candle. Most Christmas decorations follow a theme of pine, holly and other materials that are both natural and synthetic. All of these burn quite easily when touched by an open flame. Be sure to never be out of sight of any lit candle regardless of what type of container or candle holder it is in. Also, never place a candle where it can come in contact with combustibles such as curtains or be knocked over by a person or pet. Glass candle holders can break. It is safer to place a glass candle holder on a fireproof metal surface such as a pie plate.
The holiday season truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Do not let it be spoiled by an accident or injury that is caused by neglecting safety procedures or cutting corners on safety equipment. Be smart and careful. Destroy and throw out old decorations with lights that are no longer safe. Do not overdo the decorating, and always have someone in the kitchen when cooking is in progress.