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Tips for a Safe Holiday Season at Home

Tips for a Safe Holiday Season at Home

December 8, 2017

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The holidays are a great way to create a merry time at home, but all those decorations, yule logs, and trees can create a significant safety hazard if you are not careful.

We hope these tips for a safe holiday season can help you gain some peace of mind and prevent hazards from turning into real emergencies this Christmas and holiday season.

How to Have a Safe Holiday Season

Christmas Trees

Back in the old days when we didn’t have electricity to light up our trees (or when it was still too expensive), homeowners celebrating the holiday season would use candles on their trees. While some people still practice this highly dangerous activity, most people use electric Christmas lights, which drastically reduce the danger of home Christmas tree fires. But that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a real danger to watch out or.

  • If you are buying a real Christmas tree this year, make sure you buy a fresh tree where needles are not falling out easily. Needles that easily fall out are a sign of a dry tree. When the needles on your tree begin to fall, it’s a good time to get rid of your Christmas tree.
  • Cut off around 2 inches from the base of the tree before placing it in the stand.
  • Check your tree’s water level every morning and water it daily.
  • If you are using or purchasing a synthetic Christmas tree, make sure you look for the fire-resistant or fire retardant label.
  • Regardless of the Christmas tree that you use, keep all heat sources at least 3 feet away from the tree, including fireplaces, space heaters, candles, heating vents, radiators, and cooking equipment.
  • Do NOT use Christmas lights on metallic trees. This can cause a dangerous electrocution.
  • Keep children and pets away from electric string lights, trees, and other decorations.
  • Make sure your tree is out of the way of any entrances or exits.


  • Check labels on all your decorations to make sure you use only nonflammable or fire retardant ornaments.
  • Keep all decorations away from heat sources and open flames, including light bulbs, heaters, and cooking equipment.
  • If you have pets or children at home, do not use any sharp, glass, or breakable ornaments.
  • Hang heavier ornaments lower on the tree and keep ornaments with moving parts out of children’s reach.
  • Turn off all of your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving home. Not only will this save energy, but it will also reduce the chance of an electric fire.

Childproofing and Pet-Proofing

  • Remove any food items from the tree (children will be tempted to reach for them and pull them down).
  • Keep mistletoe, holly betters, and Jerusalem cherries away from children and (they can be poisonous when consumed in large amounts).
  • Poinsettias are a common holiday plant, but they are mildly toxic and can cause vomiting and skin irritation. If you choose to have poinsettias at home, keep them out of reach of children and pets. Click here for a full list of plants that are toxic to humans and pets.
  • Avoid candles entirely if you can. Use battery-operated ones instead.
  • String lights, garland, and plastic bags are common holiday objects, but they can also present a strangulation and suffocation hazard. Teach your children not to use these objects as playthings. Avoid garland entirely if possible.
  • If you must use glass, breakable, and sharp ornaments, place them high up on the tree, out of reach of small children.
  • Wax fruits, ornaments, wax fruits, and other decorations can create a choking hazard. Keep things that can be choking hazards out of reach of children and pets. Never allow children to play with lights, cords, plugs, and other decorations.
  • Avoid placing dangerous ornaments, metal hooks, and other choking hazards near the ground or on the lower limbs of the tree.
  • Ask an electrician about installing tamper-proof receptacles (TRRs) if you don’t already have them. While small plastic outlet caps are very easy for a child to remove, TRRs block improper outlet use automatically from the inside.


If you can, refrain from using candles altogether; use battery-operated candles and LEDs instead.

But if you absolutely have to use candles, follow these important candle safety tips:

  • Never leave candles or any open flames unattended.
  • There should always be adult supervision around candles. Keep burning candles within sight at all times.
  • Place candles on even surfaces and away from edges or anywhere where they could be knocked over. Keep a minimum 1-foot clearance around your candles.
  • Keep candles away from curtains, drapes, tree, and other flammable materials.
  • Blow out all candles before going to bed or leaving the room or home.


  • Never leave any cooking unattended. According to the NFPA, cooking is the number one cause of home fires in the U.S.
  • Make sure the fireplace flue is open before lighting a fire. Never burn wrapping paper or any decorations in the fireplace.
  • When removing your fireplace embers and coals, transfer them into a metal container and place them far away from the home. Never store coals and embers anywhere in the home.
  • Keep all decorations and anything that could burn far away from fireplaces, heaters, and cooking equipment.
  • Keep your Christmas tree and other decorations away from doors and any exits or escape routes.

Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

  • Make sure all of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order and up-to-date.
  • You should have smoke and CO alarms located on every level of the home and outside every sleeping area.
  • Test your smoke/CO alarms every 30 days.
  • Replace your smoke/CO alarm batteries at least once a year. If any of your alarms are chirping, change the batteries.

Home Security

Home break-ins and thefts increase during the holidays for good reason. People are away from home, they are buying and receiving expensive gifts, and the added darkness provides a nice cloak.

  • Invest in a home security system if you can.
  • Consider adding timers to your indoor and outdoor lights to make it seem as if someone is at home.
  • Don’t talk about your holiday trips or travel plans on social media. Wait until the trip is over to start sharing.
  • Ask a neighbor, family member, or friend to pick up your mail and newspapers while you are away.
  • Do not place spare keys in obvious places, such as above the door, under a mat or flowerpot.
  • Do not openly display valuables or gifts so they can be seen from windows.
  • Take the boxes from expensive gifts, such as TVs and computers to a local dumpster. Do not display them outdoors for all to see.

Wishing you health, happiness, and a safe holiday season throughout the year!

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