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News > Winter safety campaign: Holiday lights
Winter safety campaign: Holiday lights

Posted 11/27/2013   Updated 11/27/2013 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Sutliff
341st Missile Wing Safety

11/27/2013 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Once Thanksgiving dinner has been consumed, most people get right into holiday mode. The tree goes up, the decorations come out and the lights come on. Decorating is often an event that involves friends or family; with some keeping it rather simple and others mimicking the Griswold's.

When kicking it into holiday decoration mode, many are caught up in executing their plan without considering some of the hazards associated with the task. What is meant to be a joyous time can quickly turn into a painful one.

The numbers are eye-opening. Over a five-year period, approximately 1,100 home fires per year were attributed to holiday decorations in the United States, not including tree fires. On average each year, there are between 200 to 300 tree fires. In an average year, 10 to 15 thousand injuries that require medical care occur due to holiday decorating; nearly 6,000 of those are related to falls. The result is a needless loss of life, limb and property. Accidents are 100 percent preventable; taking a few steps can eliminate the risk.

Real trees in the home
They make the home look and smell wonderful, but if not properly cared for, real trees are simply tinder. Ensure that trees are watered and kept away from a source of heat such as a heater or open flame. You can avoid the fire risk by going artificial; many are "fire resistant" and most retailers carry scent sticks that hang on the tree to provide that "fresh cut" fragrance.

Decorating the tree and home
Many glass ornaments are fragile and become cut hazards if broken. Keep this in mind when decorating, especially with little ones in the house; consider shatter-proof ornaments. Homes are also often decorated with flowers, poinsettias being a plant of choice for the season. If accidently ingested, poinsettias can cause allergic symptoms, especially for small children and pets.

Watch those fire sources
Along with the holiday season comes colder weather. Many homes in the area have fireplaces; stoking a fire can provide warmth and a visually appealing holiday setting. Candles, although not helpful in the heat department, are popular among holiday decorations. Never leave a fire source unattended and keep them away from materials that may easily catch fire.

Stringing those lights
Injuries often occur from individuals falling off ladders or roofs while putting up lights and decorations. Avoid overreaching to prevent falls and have another person available to keep ladders stable. Before running lights on and around the house, check electrical cords for frayed cables and tears in insulation. If any of these are present, be sure to take that strand out of service as they can increase the potential for an electrical fire.

When turning in for the evening
Be sure that all fire sources are extinguished. Turn off all lights or place them on a timer to automatically shut off.

Decorating for the holidays can be a happy time. By taking a few steps to decorate safely, everyone can be sure that the season will be both a happy and healthy one.

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