Decorate Safely for the Holidays

Time: 1 hour

The holidays are right around the corner, and that means it's time to deck the halls and string up the lights to make your home a more festive place. It's easy to get carried away with making your home a well-lit winter wonderland, but some holiday decorations can cause a fire hazard if you're not careful. It only takes a few minutes here and there to make sure your decorations and equipment are up to the task. Here's how to stay safe and protect your home as you decorate during December.

What's in it for you?

  • Physical safety
  • Improved fire safety for your house
  • Peace of mind

How to Stay Safe While Decorating for the Holidays:

  1. Keep live Christmas trees cool and dry: A fresh tree is a safe tree because moist needles are difficult to ignite. Unless you're sawing the tree down yourself, give it a shake or pull your hand along a branch to see how many needles come off. If it's a lot, consider choosing another tree. Once you bring your tree indoors, water it twice a day, and place it far away from heat registers and fireplaces to keep it fresh as long as possible.
  2. Inspect strings of lights before using: Make sure cords are intact and show no signs of fraying or peeling. If your strings of lights are damaged or don't work properly when plugged in, discard them and replace with new ones. When shopping for lights, make sure they are UL-certified to meet safety standards.
  3. Use extension cords properly: If you need an extension cord for outdoor lights, be sure to choose one designed specifically for outdoor use, and plug it into an exterior outlet with ground fault protection. Don't string more than three strands of lights into one extension cord, and be sure to turn lights off before leaving the house or going to bed for the night.
  4. Practice ladder safety: When you need to decorate higher areas like attaching lights to the eaves, make sure to use an appropriate step stool or ladder. Have a partner hold the ladder steady, and make sure all feet are resting securely on the ground. Don't lean too far -- move the ladder instead.
  5. Never leave fires unattended: The glow of holiday candles and a roaring fire in the hearth are wonderful but make sure to put them all out before bed. Never leave children alone with an open flame either.
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