Deck the halls with Red Cross safety

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer

Red Cross board member and volunteer Ryan Lang decorating the Christmas tree.

Nothing ties the holidays together quite like decorations. Between the lighted trees, the stockings hung by the chimney with care, and the 20-foot inflatable Santa in the front yard, holiday décor has gotten more elaborate.  
 
Even if you’re not going all Clark Griswold with “250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights,” it’s important to play it safe.  
 
The American Red Cross offers these steps you can take to deck your halls safely:  
 
Check all holiday light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.  
 
Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.  
 
Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.  
 
If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.  
 
If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.  
 
Don’t light the fireplace if hanging stockings or other decorations on the mantel.  
 
Check the labels of older decorations. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.  
 
If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.  

Additionally, if you use traditional candles, keep flammable items, including curtains and holiday decorations, at least 3 feet away from your candles. Keep your menorah or kinara on a non-flammable surface to catch the melting candle wax, such as a tray lined with aluminum foil. Never leave lit candles unattended.
 
For more holiday safety tips, visit RedCross.org

Beautiful to View – Dangerous to Ignore

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer-Communications and Disaster Services

Candles can add beauty, fragrance and ambiance to any home.  They can even add the scent of fresh pine to a home with an artificial tree. But, home safety trumps ambiance, so keep these easy to follow suggestions in mind during the holiday season (and the rest of the year as well.)

Candle2

Photo credit: Mel Turner on Unsplash

Flickering flames can be extremely interesting to toddlers.  Keeping candles high enough to avoid their reach goes without saying, but if your toddler is ingenious enough to drag over a stool or chair, make sure that the candle will still be out of reach.

If you live in a home with cats, make sure that the candle is somewhere kitty can’t jump or climb.  One swish of a long, furry tail and your candle could come flying down.

Never place candles near draperies or other flammable fabrics. Also, consider open windows. Loose papers or blowing curtains could easily come in contact with the flame.

Candles in the bedroom can be truly romantic; but, statistics show that one-third of candle fires start in the bedroom and approximately half of candle-related deaths occur after midnight and before 6:00 a.m. Be sure to extinguish your candles before you dose off to sleep, or better yet, opt for the inexpensive, flickering, battery-operated candles.  Some even come with small remote controls.

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If there is a power outage, opt for a flashlight or other battery-powered light. Candles can easily get knocked over in the darkness.  As an alternate, consider these Red Cross nightlights which plug into an outlet, and emit a soft glow. If the power goes out, they turn to a bright white light and can actually be removed from the outlet to serve as a flashlight.  No batteries to ever worry about, since the outlet keeps them charged constantly.

Make sure the candle holder is sized properly for the intended candle. Preferably, have multiple holders for all your favorite-sized candles.  If the holder is too loose, the candle could shift and fall at any time.

Finally, a UL/NFPA approved fire extinguisher is always great to have nearby.  Make sure all family members know where it’s located and know how to properly use it. Now’s an ideal time to review your family escape plan as well.

Read on for more practical fire safety tips.