Stay Safe This Holiday Season

Decorated the house for the holidays-check! Finished shopping and wrapping gifts-check! Sent out the holiday cards-check! Made sure the family was safe from fire and injury. Here’s a good checklist.

Christmas Trees

  1. For artificial trees:  look for the label “Fire Resistant”
  2. For fresh trees:  fresh needles are hard to pull from branches
  3. Branches and needles don’t easily bend
  4. Bottom of a fresh-cut trunk should be sticky with resin
  5. When tree is bounced on the ground, needles should not shower off of the trees
  6. Place fresh trees away from the fireplace, radiators, any heat sources
  7. Use a stand with wide-standing legs to prevent tree from tipping and falling
  8. Cut 2 inches off the bottom before placing in holder to assure better water absorption
  9. Water tree daily
  10. Remove a fresh tree from the home as soon after the holidays as possible to prevent over-drying and increase the fire hazard
  11. DO NOT BURN a Christmas tree in the fireplace or out of doors. Dispose of  used trees according to your city or county regulation


  1. Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized Testing Laboratory (UL, ETL/ITSNA) – look for labeling
  2. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and are required to have safety fuses to prevent the wires from overheating
  3. Keep outdoor light outside and indoor lights inside. DO NOT MIX the two types.
  4. Make sure lights used outdoors are certified for outdoor use.
  5. Plug all outdoor electrical decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential for shocks
  6. Check each set for (even brand new);  broken or cracked sockets, frayed or broken wires, loose connections
  8. Use no more than 3 standard sets per extension cord unless specially marked as safe to use more
  9. Turn all lights off when going to bed or leaving the house, even for short periods of time. Lights could short out and start a fire.
  10. Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. The glass portion can break and cut child, the liquid can become extremely hot and could burn them if broken and splashed, and the liquid contains a hazardous chemical if swallowed.
  11. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become easily charged with electricity from faulty lights, and touching a branch could cause electrocution.


  1. Keep cords and extension cords out of walkways to prevent tripping
  2. Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs
  3. Take care not to pinch cords when placing behind furniture


  1. Never use lighted candles on a tree or near evergreens
  2. Always use non-flammable holders
  3. Keep away from other decorations and wrapping paper
  4. Place safely where they can’t be knocked over
  5. Don’t place near curtains or drapes
  6. Don’t place decorations that include candles on tables near or below lampshades
  7. Never leave a lighted candle unattended – blow candles out if leaving the room even for short periods of time


  1. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials
  2. Wear gloves and protective eyewear when decorating with spun glass “angel hair” to avoid irritation to eyes and skin
  3. Both “angel hair” and cotton snow are flame retardant when used alone.  But, if artificial snow is sprayed onto them, the dried combination will burn rapidly
  4. Artificial snow sprays can irritate your lungs if inhaled while applying to windows or other surfaces
  5. Avoid tinsel or artificial icicles that contain lead. Look for safer plastic icicles.


  1. Holiday plants often have berries that can be ingested or swallowed.
  2. Many can cause severe stomach problems. Some are also poisonous.
  3. Plants to watch out for include:  mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry, and amaryllis.
  4. Keep all of these plants out of children’s reach.


  1. Always remove stockings “hung with care” from mantel before starting a fire
  2. Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area
  3. Make sure that the flue is in the open position
  4. Don’t close the flue until the fire is COMPLETELY out
  5. Don’t go to bed or leave the house until the fire is COMPLETELY out
  6. Use and keep the fireplace screen in front of the fireplace all the time the fire is burning and BURNING OUT
  7. Use extreme care with “fire salts” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals which can cause poisoning, intense GI irritation or vomiting if eaten.  KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.


  1. Never place paper trimmings near open flames or electrical connections
  2. Throw away all wrapping papers from near tree and fireplace immediately after presents are opened
  3. NEVER burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result because papers ignite suddenly and burn intensely
  4. Wrapping papers may contain metallic materials which can be toxic if burned

Homes With Small Children (or if small children visit)

  1. Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.  Breakable, glass ornaments should be placed high enough on the tree so that toddlers (and pets) cannot reach them
  2. Keep trimmings with small, easily removable pieces out of the reach of children (i.e.: garland with small beads or sharp, star-shaped pieces
  3. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food.  This poses risk for ingestion or aspiration.
  4. Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco
  5. Immediately discard plastic wrappings from toys and other packages so children do not have suffocation dangers

Check! Have a fun (and safe) holiday from Safety City USA!

— Erica Surman, RN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager and Donna Buccarelli, RN, Injury Prevention Coordinator

1 Response to “Stay Safe This Holiday Season”

  1. 1 Anonymous December 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Wow! This is a GREAT check list to help us all enjoy our holiday season with safety in mind. Thanks for all of the tips, Erica!

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