The holiday season is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year. For many, it’s a constant celebration of friends, family, and heart-warming festivities. Unfortunately, some things that make the season so delightful – like illuminated trees, cozy fireplaces, and bustling kitchens – can make your home dangerous.
If you think your home might have some hidden hazards, don’t sweat. The Today’s Homeowner team has done its homework to provide you with this guide to holiday safety. We’ll show you the tips and tricks you need to protect yourself and your loved ones through the tail end of the year.
Electrical Safety Best Practices
Using electrical best practices throughout the winter holidays will reduce your risk of fire hazards and electrocutions.
Many homeowners decorate their roofs, entryways, stair railings, and walkways with strands of lights. Although most modern holiday lights contain LED bulbs with higher energy efficiency and lower heat output, they can still pose some electrical dangers. Before decorating your home with outdoor lighting, you must ensure your extension cords and lights are rated for outdoor use. These products will have greater durability against conditions like humidity and fluctuating temperatures.
Be sure your electrical outlets and extension cords are in good condition. Look out for cracked sockets, bent prongs, and loose connections that could shock someone. If you spot any problems with your electrical systems or decorations, don’t try to use them. Discard the old items and replace them with new ones to avoid serious injury.
Lastly, practice caution when hanging light strands on your home. Plastic hangers are typically the best for putting up lights because the material is a poor conductor. This quality puts the handler at a lower risk of getting shocked while hanging the lights. Avoid using nails or metal tacks to hang Christmas lights; metal is an excellent conductor that can transfer electricity straight from the lights into your body. That said, always hang up your lights before plugging them in. You don’t want to handle charged – and potentially hot – bulbs for extended periods, especially while touching metal ladders, gutters, and roofing materials.
Read our guide to hanging holiday lights safely for more electrical safety tips.
Decoration Safety Considerations
Adorning your home with ornaments and trimmings is a must. But while you’re busy decking the halls, don’t forget to heed the hazards holiday decorations can bring.
Popular decorations like tree ornaments, tinsel, and lights can be choking hazards for small children and pets. Even bows and wrapping paper can get stuck in a child or pet’s throat or stomach if swallowed. For this reason, you should keep decorations out of the reach of any little hands or curious critters. Hang your tinsel high and discard used paper, ribbons, and bows immediately.
Use glass ornaments wisely; if you have a child or cat that could accidentally topple the Christmas tree over, these might not be the safest choice. Instead, you might want to invest in shatter-proof plastic baubles to beautify your tree.
Be mindful of decorating with holiday plants, too. Festive flora like poinsettias and mistletoe are mildly toxic to pets. Place these decorations far out of paw’s reach to keep your furry friends safe.
Fire Hazard Prevention
If the weather outside is frightful, you might have a few heat sources indoors to keep the house cozy and warm. If this is the case, you must practice extra caution during the holiday season.
Never leave heat sources like space heaters, radiators, and fireplaces unattended. Keep linens and flammable decorations far away from heat sources at all times. All it takes is one blanket or stocking lazily forgotten by the space heater for the whole area to burst into flames.
Candles are another decoration that can pose potential dangers to your home. In fact, candle fires account for one-third of home decoration fires. For this reason, you must be especially careful when using real flames to beautify your home. Never leave lit candles unattended, and always remember to extinguish them before sleeping or running errands. Keep them out of reach of kids and pets to prevent nasty burns.
Christmas trees create another serious fire hazard for holiday homeowners. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly a third of all Christmas tree fires start because of electrical issues. Meanwhile, one-fifth of the fires begin because of heat sources too close to trees.
To keep your evergreen display from devastating your holiday, follow these Christmas tree fire prevention tips from the NFPA:
- If you’re using a live tree, select one with fresh, green needles. Avoid a tree that has crunchy brown needles that fall off when touched.
- If you’re using an artificial tree, select one with a fire-resistant label.
- Cut 2 inches from the live tree trunk before placing it in the tree holder. This step creates a fresher base that’s less likely to dry out and become a fire hazard.
- Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from heat sources like radiators, vents, candles, etc.
- Use tree lights rated for your intended decorating use.
- Always turn off your tree lights before sleeping or leaving home.
Sometimes, all the caution and preparation in the world can’t stop an accident from happening. Improve your family’s safety by testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors before the holidays. Then, make sure you have a functional fire extinguisher close by at all times in the event of an emergency. You might consider investing in a smart home smoke detector like this one from Vivint that senses the problem and automatically calls for help.
Home Security Tools
There’s no place like home for the holidays. However, if you and your family will be traveling for the season, home security is another safety consideration you can’t forget.
If you’re leaving town, keep your travel plans private – especially from strangers. Sharing your plans notifies potential burglars that an unsupervised home will be up for grabs.
Ensure the safety of your home and belongings by installing a home security system. Products like the Vivint Home Security system come with smart locks, door cameras, and intruder alarms to keep home safety at arm’s reach. We highly recommend smart home security systems for the holidays because you can control your entryways, thermostats, and other home systems from your phone. This means you can lock up even if you’re already on the road.
In addition to checking your home’s locks and windows before skipping town, you might consider hiring a house sitter. Having someone – even a trusted friend or family member – check in on your home is an excellent way to ensure everything stays safe and secure during your time away.
A Very Merry, Not-So-Scary, Holiday
We hope these tips help you keep your home – and everyone in it – safe and sound throughout the holiday season. Remember that some things that make the end of the year so beautiful can also make it dangerous, so take special care when decorating your home with string lights, tinsel, candles, and trees. Then, keep your home safe even when you’re away by installing a security system or hiring a house sitter. With these tips, you’ll be able to navigate the winter holidays with joy and peace of mind.