The holidays are a time to reconnect with family and friends, but they also can present seasonal safety hazards. Here are some tips to help you keep your home safe this holiday season.
Holiday decorating tips
During the holiday season, there is an average of around 160 decorating related injuries daily — half of those injuries are associated with falls. Here are some tips to make your holiday decorating safer:
- Never use furniture as a ladder.
- Follow the 1-to-4 rule for extension ladders: for every four feet the ladder rises, move the base out one foot from the structure.
- Always keep three points of contact on the ladder: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
- Inspect the ladder for any damage prior to using it.
- Use the right ladder for the task at hand.
Electrical safety tips
Between 2015 and 2019, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates an average of 160 home fires, per year, started with Christmas trees. Those fires resulted in an annual average of two deaths, 12 injuries and over $10 million in property damage.
- Avoid electrical fires by purchasing lights from reputable retailers and only those approved by nationally recognized testing labs like UL, Intertek or CSA.
- Inspect both indoor and outdoor lights for broken sockets, frayed wired and loose connections.
- Don't overload outlets with too many electrical devices — this could cause a fire.
- Review Holiday Fire Safety Tips for more information and Christmas safety tips.
Fire prevention tips
Being aware of fire safety tips can have a big impact in helping to keep your home safe while you are decorating during the holidays.
Even with all those Christmas tree fires, cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and injuries. According to the NFPA, many fires occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Here are some holiday fire safety tips:
- Avoid using candles if possible. Consider using battery-operated ones.
- Mantels are beautiful when covered with stockings and greenery. But these items are flammable. If you use your fireplace frequently, consider hanging these decorations somewhere else.
- Be sure to check the Christmas tree — make sure it has plenty of water and it isn't near heat sources.
- When cooking, pay close attention to what you're doing and your surroundings.
- Keep a fire extinguisher close by.
- Be sure you have smoke detectors at least 10 feet from your stove, and test them monthly.
- Educate yourself on kitchen safety.
Holiday shopping safety tips
Extra precautions need to be taken when shopping during the holiday season. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be careful when backing out of parking spaces. It's a good idea to have someone act as a lookout for you, especially if you're parked next to an SUV or van. And be sure to watch for other vehicles in the parking lot that might be suddenly backing out of spaces.
- Remember to keep a watch on your children and be on the lookout for small children running behind your car as you leave your space.
- Always park in well-lit areas.
- Don't leave purchased gifts in plain view — lock them in your trunk.
- If you drop your holiday gifts that you’ve purchased in your vehicle and don’t plan on leaving just yet, it might be a good idea to move your car. Onlookers will think that you have left the mall, and your vehicle could be less of a target.
- Be sure to keep receipts in your wallet or purse. Leaving the receipt in the bag makes it difficult for you to prove your purchase, and easy for thieves to return the items for cash.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Only bring credit cards you plan to use.
- Check your bank statements regularly during the season to spot suspicious activity.
Travel safety tips
We have a few tips for your holiday travels.
- Avoid aggressive and angry driving.
- Adjust following distance and speed in snowy or icy conditions.
- A little eggnog might be delicious during the holidays. So be sure to designate a sober driver or arrange for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft ahead of time if you plan to drink at holiday gatherings.
- During the winter months, an earlier sunset means you've got less daylight to work with. Ideally, plan your trip to avoid driving at night.
- Cold weather takes its toll on car batteries. Double-check to make sure you've got jumper cables in your trunk. You never know when an easy jump-start could save you time and hassle — or when you could use them to help someone else.
- A winter storm can leave you spending your holiday stuck in a drift or stranded in a blizzard, particularly if you're traveling on unfamiliar roads. So be sure to stock your vehicle with items that might be helpful in case of a problem: thick blankets, extra food and water, coats and jackets and a flashlight.
Cooking and dining safety tips
Just a few simple tips to keep the kitchen safer during the holidays include:
- Always have a cook in the kitchen.
- Don't leave stove burners or the oven unattended.
- Occupy the kids away from the kitchen — too many hot appliances and dangerous utensils.
- Keep prepared foods away from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
- Cook food thoroughly, using a food thermometer to determine doneness.
- Internal food temperature should be 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
- Refrigerate food within two hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- Ditch leftovers after 4 days.
Preventing accidental poisoning and choking
The risk of poisoning also increases during the holiday period, resulting not only from common household items, but also carbon monoxide (CO). Here are more tips:
- Be sure your child doesn't have access to dangerous plants. Mistletoe, holly berries and Jerusalem cherries can be poisonous if consumed in large amounts.
- Those small button batteries found in toys, remotes and the like, are VERY dangerous so make sure children don't swallow them.
- Tiny magnets are also dangerous if swallowed.
- Install safe and certified carbon monoxide detectors.
Check out these articles for safe winter driving and holiday saving tips.