Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Safety Tips

Christmas Trees

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label is not a guarantee that the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate that the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches when bent between your fingers, and needles do not break. The cut base of the tree’s trunk is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the fresh tree should not lose many needles. Wholesale Christmas tree growers generally harvest their mass-market trees in mid to late October. If you buy a tree from your local garden center (Lowe’s, Home Depot), nursery store, high volume discount store or from a lot operated by a service club, you are most likely getting a tree that can be as much as two months old before it gets to your home. You should ask the seller when his/her trees were cut and shop around for the freshest cut tree possible. Older cut trees are dryer and are more susceptible to catching fire than a fresh cut tree. They will also leave fewer needles in your carpet to be vacuumed up after the holidays!

When setting up a tree at home, place it at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other sources of heat. Be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Make sure your tree stand holds at least 1 gallon of water. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. The average 6-foot tree has a 4-inch diameter trunk and can consume as much as 4 quarts or 1 gallon of water per day. Clean water is all that is needed to keep the tree fresh. Do not use additives in the water, such as floral preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin. When selecting a location for the tree, try to avoid heavy traffic areas and do not block doorways. HINT: before bringing the tree into the house, cut ½” to 1” off the bottom of the trunk before putting it in its stand, then use hot water when to fill the stand for the first time. The hot water will help dissolve any sealing pitch open up restrictions so the tree can better “drink” water and transpire that water to its leaves.

Decorative Lighting

Indoors or outdoors, use only those lights that have been tested for safety and are UL approved. Check each set of lights, old or new, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.

Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person could be electrocuted by touching a branch.

Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports. Do not use staples or nails to hang strings of lights. Use hooks or clips designed for hanging light strings.

Turn off lights when you leave the house or go to bed.

For added electric shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations to a protected ground fault circuit (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.

Never use lighted candles on a tree or near evergreens. Always place candles where they will not be knocked down or where small children can reach them.


If you have small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of pets and small children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling them. Avoid tree trimmings that resemble food that may tempt a child or your pets.

Use only non-combustible or flame resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested.

Follow container directions carefully when using snow sprays to avoid lung irritation.

Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire could result as wrapping paper burns suddenly and intensely. If you plan to hang stockings over your fireplace, do not use the fireplace for fires.

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