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Glowing lights, treasured ornaments, flickering candles – holiday decorations help give the season that festive feel most of us know and love. Almost 90 percent of us to be exact. That’s approximately how many Americans decorate their homes for the holidays, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

It’s festive, yes. But, decorating for the holidays sent 15,000 people to the emergency room in 2012, says the National Safety Council (NSC). So, use these tips from various fire and safety agencies to help keep your decorating traditions in the safety zone.

  1. Start safely. No matter what kind of decorations you’re putting up, do it the right way. Don’t stand on precariously stacked furniture (or any furniture, really) to place the tree topper or to get that last strand of lights just right. Use a sturdy ladder or step stool, or hire a professional.
  2. Don’t play with fire. The NSC says home fires are common in December, in part because people use fireplaces and candles more. Plus, there’s more flammable material around the house thanks to all that décor. Here are their tips for candles and fireplaces:

    • Don’t leave burning candles unattended, and extinguish all candles before going to sleep.
    • Keep candles away from children, pets, trees, curtains and other flammable items.
    • Before using your fireplace, make sure the chimney is clear and clean. Have it checked at least once a year.
    • Keep flammable material away from the fireplace hearth and mantle.
    • Never burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in your fireplace.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Even some of the most harmless-sounding decorations can ruin the holidays. For example, “angel hair” is made of spun glass and can cause eye and skin irritation. Artificial snow sprays can irritate your lungs. And, ornaments that have small or sharp pieces can be hazardous, particularly if children are helping you decorate. Even some favorite holiday plants, such as poinsettia, are toxic to humans and pets. So, don’t assume your décor is safe. Check that it actually is.
  4. Make sure your lights are all right. Check for loose connections and frayed wires. Inspect your extension cords, too. Don’t overload sockets. And, consider LED lights, which stay cool to the touch and are more energy-efficient. No matter how many lights you use, or which kind, always turn them off before going to sleep.
  5. Don’t just admire the tree — examine it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says about 240 Christmas tree fires occur each year. They recommend making sure your tree is fresh by checking the needles (if they fall off easily, it’s already too dry), checking how sticky the trunk is (it should be sticky with sap) and watering it regularly. Don’t put it anywhere near a heat source. Not only will this dry the tree out more quickly, it’s also a fire risk.

With just a little thought about what you’re putting up — as well as where you’re putting it — you can have a beautifully decorated home for the holidays without sacrificing safety. Enjoy the festivities!

Posted 4:08 PM

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