Deck the Halls Safely

Did you know that today is National Gingerbread House Day? While some gingerbread enthusiasts might choose to show off their masterpieces in a competition, simply making one in your own kitchen and involving the entire family is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Of course, most of the fun comes in decorating your gingerbread house with all those mouthwatering candies and methodically deciding where to place each candy. However, if we do not take the time to think about safety when adorning our own homes, we could pay the price.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 15,000 injuries related to holiday decorations in 2012 and these estimates seem to be increasing every year. Falls send most people to the hospital, with cuts and back injuries following right behind.

So as you deck the halls, hang those festive lights, and put those sparkling ornaments on the tree, here are a few precautions to ensure the holidays are happy and not frantic at the hospital.

  • If you decide on a live tree, make sure it is fresh. A fresh tree is green and the needles are hard to pull from branches.
  • Keep live trees away from heat sources, such fireplaces, candles, and heaters. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters.
  • Hydrate your tree. Check the water level every other day to ensure proper hydration.
  • If you decided on an artificial tree? Look for the label: “Fire Resistant.” This label indicates that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Select lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, as well as frayed or bare wires.
  • Don’t mount lights in a way that might damage the cords, and avoid using nails or tacks. Use hooks or insulated staples instead.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Before going to bed or leaving the house, turn off all lights on trees and other decorations.
  • Be careful when discarding sharp or broken decorations to avoid cuts or lacerations. Use unbreakable ornaments. If you have fragile ornament, place them out of reach from pets and kids.
  • Avoid decorations that look like candy or food if you have young children or pets in the house. They can choke or swallow.
  • Most importantly, make sure smoke alarms are working and keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

Your friends at Cal OES wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

Additional resources:

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission – Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

Cal Fire – Holiday Safety

Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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