Tips for decking the halls safely

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When I was young, I visited the home of an elderly Finnish couple. I remember the heavenly
aroma of special cookies baking for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

But my most vivid memory of that visit was of an unfinished wooden frame in the shape of a
Christmas tree with delicate straw ornaments and real candles burning!

I asked my dad why we didn’t have real candles on our tree. He immediately dismissed the idea as “too dangerous.” Boy, was he right: According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles cause an average 20 home fires a day in the U.S., and these emergencies peak in December and January.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com


The American Red Cross suggests that if you’re decorating with candles this holiday season, consider using the battery-operated kind. They’re flameless, many are scented and they come in a variety of styles, from votives and pillars to tapers for windowsills and the dining table. If you must use real candles, keep them away from anything that could burn and out of reach of pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended.

The Red Cross offers other steps you can take to be sure you and your family enjoy the
holidays safely:
– Check all 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 – including window candles – when going to bed or leaving the house.
– Be sure outside decorations are labeled for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If you’re using hooks or nails outside, make sure they’re insulated to avoid an
electrocution or fire hazard.
– If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for a 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 you’re 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 needles aren’t falling off.
– Clear the mantel of stockings and other dangling decorations before lighting a fireplace.
– Check the labels on older decorations. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
– If you’re using a ladder to hang the mistletoe or place a tree-topper, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.

The Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters a year – and the majority are home fires. Home fires claim seven lives a day in the U.S., but working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. This is a good time to test your smoke alarms and practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes: That’s how long you may have to leave a burning home before it’s too late.

If you’re looking for a gift for that someone “who has everything,” how about a new smoke
alarm, carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher or emergency escape ladder?

How about a donation in that person’s name to the American Red Cross, to support activities
that help prepare for, prevent and respond to disasters down the street, across the country and around the world? To make a donation, visit here.

Candles can cause colossal catastrophes: Tips to ensure a safe holiday glow

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

December 7, 2020- “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This phrase has been attributed to many people, from Confucius to Eleanor Roosevelt; but neither of them ever manned a Northern Ohio Disaster Action Team and saw the consequences of a candle left burning unattended.

Pulling up to what used to be a beautiful home in Chardon and seeing a giant hole gaping through the roof, was testament to the destructive power of lighting one little candle. In addition, one person was temporarily hospitalized and the family’s pet was lost to the fire. Not the way they anticipated starting the holiday season.

The holiday glow is something everyone loves. Here are nine tips to safely enjoy the holidays:

  1. If you want candles, make them the battery-operated kind.
  2. If you use outdoor lights, make sure the cords aren’t frayed or broken.
  3. When using decorations outside, make sure the cords are rated for outdoor use.
  4. If you get an artificial tree, make sure it has a fire-resistant label attached.
  5. If you get a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. If needles fall off, select another.
  6. If the stockings are hung above the fireplace, don’t light it. Find somewhere else to hang them.
  7. Check for safety labels on other decorations –- some are lead based and some artificial snow is toxic to breathe.
  8. If you climb a ladder to decorate, make sure it’s placed on secure ground and don’t climb higher than recommended.
  9. Check your home’s smoke alarms one more time before the holidays. Replace batteries if needed or replace the alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.

Okay, now you’re less likely to have a problem. How about sharing these tips with your parents or elder relatives? They are more likely to have old ornaments and lights that should have been replaced years ago. They’ll be grateful that you took an interest in their safety.

For even more safety preparation ideas, download and check out the free Red Cross Emergency app, for either iOS or Android, available from app stores. Then, light that one little battery-operated candle and have a happy holiday season!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Trim Your Home with Care this Holiday Season

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

December 4, 2019- As we enter the holiday season here in Northeast Ohio, many will be trimming trees and putting up decorations. As you hang your stockings with care, make sure to keep in mind these holiday decorating safety tips from the American Red Cross.

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  1. Candles: Use battery-operated candles whenever you can. If you do use candles, never leave them unattended, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach from children and pets.
  2. Lights:
    1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken.
    2. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
    3. Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
    4. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  3. Outside Decorations: Make sure all decorations hung outside are marked for outdoor use. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or a fire hazard.
  4. Trees: If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it often to keep it from drying out. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off. Keep the tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
  5. Indoor Decorations:
    1. If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based.
    2. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
    3. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.
  6. Ladders: Make sure to have a good, stable placement of the ladder before use. Wear shoes that allow for good traction.

Christmas Story

Home Fire Campaigns Saves Lives

Home fires take seven lives each day in the U.S. To prevent fire tragedies, the Red Cross works with community partners to install free smoke alarms and help families create escape plans through its Home Fire Campaign — which has saved at least 658 lives nationwide since launching in October 2014. In Northeast Ohio, Red Cross volunteers and partners have:

  • Installed 62,656 smoke alarms.
  • Reached 16,273 youth through preparedness programs.
  • Made 22,308 households safer from the threat of home fires.

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You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, registering to become a volunteer or by taking steps to protect your family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Think S-A-F-E-T-Y as you trim your tree this year

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Northeast Ohio. While the dusting of snow is lovely, and while we are all busy getting ready for the holidays, we need to be aware of the potential for home fires during this season.

decorations-home-fire-engThe National Fire Protection Association warns us that Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the three days most likely to experience fires started by candles.

Consider that Northeast Ohio experienced 14 fires just over Thanksgiving weekend alone.

The American Red Cross wants people to stay safe from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing their smoke alarms and practicing their home fire escape plan with free resources at redcross.org/homefires. In addition, you can follow these 10 simple safety tips as you put up lights and ornaments:

  1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
  2. If you are 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.
  3. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it frequently to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
  4. If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  5. When decorating outside, make sure 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.
  6. If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
  7. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  8. Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  9. Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.
  10. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.45180555475_4b8c6fc3dd_z

Every eight minutes, donations to the Red Cross help someone affected by a disaster—most often, home fires. You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, signing up to become a volunteer or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Don’t stop now.  Also check out our tips for Cooking Safety and Travel Safety.

Also, as you continue to prepare to decorate your house, here is a video on holiday decorating safety tips you can watch with your family to ensure everyone can enjoy the holidays safely: