By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer
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.