CPSC Gives Consumers a Holiday Home Decorating Safety Guide; Top Tips to Prevent Holiday Decorating-Related Fires and Injuries

The common-sense safety tips include simple steps, such as careful candle placement and inspection of holiday lights for damage.
December 2, 2010
Release Number: 11-055

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The winter holiday season has arrived, and as consumers prepare to make their homes merry and bright, CPSC is providing a holiday decorating guide to help prevent fires and injuries this season. The common-sense safety tips include simple steps, such as careful candle placement and inspection of holiday lights for damage.

During November and December, CPSC staff estimates that, on average, about 12,000 consumers are treated in hospital emergency departments nationwide due to holiday-related decorating incidents. In addition, dried out Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires, resulting in an average of 17 deaths and $13 million in property damage annually. Candle related residential fires attended by fire departments are associated with an estimated annual average of 150 deaths and $385 million in property damage.

The good news is that these hazards in the home are preventable, and CPSC is providing consumers with a guide to a safer holiday.

"Home decorating for the holidays is a wonderful tradition, and CPSC wants to ensure that this holiday season is a safe and happy one," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "To prevent a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy, keep lighted candles in sight, check trees for freshness, and don't use lights with broken sockets or frayed wires."

Use the following 10 safety tips as a guide for safe decorating this year:

Trees and Decorations

1.  When purchasing a live tree, DO check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

2.  When setting up a tree at home, DO place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.

3.  When purchasing an artificial tree, DO look for the label, "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.

4.  In homes with small children, DO take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

Lights

5.  Indoors or outdoors, DO use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.

6.  Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. DON'T use electric lights on a metallic tree.

7.  If using an extension cord, DO make sure it is rated for the intended use.

8.  When using lights outdoors, DO check labels to be sure that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.

Candles

9.  Keep burning candles within sight. DO extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.

10.  DO keep candles on a stable heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains, and furniture.

Get a free brochure with more holiday decorating safety tips from CPSC's website (PDF).

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