Holiday lights and displays are part of the joy of the holiday season, and bring holiday cheer to us all! But sometimes we aren’t fully aware of the risks that holiday lights and decorations pose which can lead to a holiday decorating disaster! In fact, for the fifth consecutive year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) anticipates an excess of 12,000 emergency room visits for falls, cuts, shocks and burns related to holiday decorating. Here’s how to decorate for the holidays so that you avoid a decorating disaster!

Tree Safety:

  • Before buying a live Christmas tree, make sure you look for these characteristics: A fresh tree has needles that resist being pulled off and do not snap when bent, a trunk bottom that's sticky with resin, and strong limbs that will drop just a few needles if shaken.
  • Don't position a live Christmas tree next to fireplaces, heating ducts or radiators, nor place them where they block doorways or high-traffic areas. Place the tree in a sturdy stand at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as heating vents and fireplaces.
  • Remember that artificial trees, even if they have a "Fire Resistant" label, can still go up in flames, too! 
  • Cut a 2-inch diagonal piece off the bottom of the trunk of your tree. This will help the tree absorb water.
  • Make sure that your tree stand is able to hold a sufficient amount of water. Check the water level and refill it every day. A dry tree will burn faster than one that’s been watered. To test to see if your tree is sufficiently hydrated, give a branch a gentle tug and see if any needles break.  
  • Hang ornaments with extra care if they are breakable! Broken glass can affect adults and children alike. 
  • Have small children? Avoid small, sharp, heavy, or breakable decorations. Keep child and pet safety in mind by placing unbreakable and non-toxic ornaments on the lowest areas of the Christmas tree. Keep decorations that have small or removable parts out of reach, and avoid decorations that resemble food or candy that may entice children into putting it into their mouths. Replace metal hooks with ribbon or string to prevent choking and injury. 

House Decorating: 

  • Step up safely! To hang decorations on your house, deploy a ladder extending a minimum of three feet over the roofline or working area. Ladders should be on level, firm ground, with leg levelers added if you're on an incline. A ladder also should be able to carry both your weight and any objects you're hauling.
  • Lighting & Decorating Suggestions:
  • Only buy electrical decorations that have a UL rating on the label, which indicates that they have been tested for safe use by the Underwriters Lab or another testing facility. Lights checked by the independent testing company are marked with a holographic UL label. A red label means lights can be used indoors and out, while green means indoor-use only.
  • Follow all installation and usage instructions for lighting decorations to ensure that you are not increasing your chance of starting a fire.
  • Inspect new and used lights before using them and discard any that have cracks, exposed wires or loose connections. Replace any bulbs that are missing.
  • Do not connect more than three sets of lights to an extension cord at one time.
  • You want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly! Plug outside lighting only into a ground fault circuit interrupting GFCI outlet, as this will safeguard the outlet from any interaction with water. This type of outlet will also shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent. If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoors for holiday seasons to come. You can also opt to buy a portable outdoor unit from your local home store for less than $20.
  • Do not secure outside lights with staples or nails, and avoid placing indoor extension cords under carpeting, rugs and furniture.
  • Check all electric lights and decorations to see if they're damaged or worn. Cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections may pose a fire or shock hazard.
  • Unplug lighting decorations before going to bed and leaving the house.

How to Keep Your Blowups From Blowing Away: 

  • That cute inflatable snowman greeting neighbors from the front lawn can easily become a dangerous projectile if you don't follow the manufacturer's instructions for securing it.  It's best to shut off the fan blowers when it's windy, when you're not going to be home for long periods or at bedtime.

Chimney, Candle and Fire Safety: 

  • Don't smoke out Santa or your other guests with a dirty chimney. Have your fireplace and wood stove inspected annually and cleaned if needed. 
  • Resist the temptation to throw used wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Keep burning candles in sight. Extinguish candles when you leave the room or house. Do a double check before going to bed to ensure that you didn’t accidentally overlook one.
  • Burn candles only on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Make sure that they’re out of reach of pets and children, and on surfaces that won’t cause the candle to fall if bumped. Make sure that there are no adjacent drapes, decorations, bedding, or furniture that could easily catch on fire. Be sure to blow out candles if you're going to leave a room. As a safer alternative, try battery-powered LED candles. 
  • Put out a candle with two inches of wax left, or a half-inch in a container, to prevent heat damage to a table or a glass container from breaking. Use a sturdy, non-combustible candleholder that can collect drippings and won't tip over.

We hope these tips will help you avoid a holiday decorating disaster! Happy holidays and happy decorating!