The holiday season means festive lights and decorations, live trees and candles. But as Garden City-based Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center points out, these elements also pose dangers. When not handled properly, they can cause fires, injuries and even death.
“This holiday season, some homeowners will use older electric light strands with frayed wiring or broken bulbs, or bring dry Christmas trees into their homes,” said Angelo Catalano, president of the museum’s board, in a press release. “These are all fire hazards, and during this time of year, we tend to see an increase in the number of house fires.”
“We urge homeowners to use caution and observe basic safety tips to ensure that these remain truly happy holidays,” he added
Experts recommend the following:
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights - Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. If old lights look frayed and worn, throw them out. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory - Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets - Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
- Be Careful When Using Candles -If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked over. Never leave candles unattended. Always keep candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
- Use Only Non-flammable Decorations
- Never Put Wrapping Paper near a Fireplace or Other Heat Sources
As for Christmas tree safety, experts recommend the following:
- Choosing Artificial Trees -- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one labeled “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- Selecting a Live Tree – Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. The needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for your tree – Do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for too long. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of the tree – Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is to take it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
- Unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.