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December Injury Prevention

Safety tips for holiday decorating and entertaining


During this holiday season, it is extremely important to consider how you decorate from the perspective of safety. The following suggestions offer easy tips to keep your home safe.
  1. Trees and decorations: if you are purchasing a fresh tree, avoid getting it too early. Warm homes cause trees to dry out quickly, with the potential to become a fire hazard. Insure the tree you choose has a bright green color. When the tree trunk is tapped on the ground, few needles should fall off. Branches should be supple and unbreakable when bent gently. To promote continued freshness, cut a few inches off the tree trunk using an appropriate tool. New wood conducts water best. Always keep fresh water in the live tree stand.
  2. Artificial trees should be fire resistant and labeled accordingly. Note of caution: never put electrical lights on a metallic tree since they can build up a charge and cause an electrocution when touched.
  3. Flames of any type do not belong on evergreens or table decorations that are flammable. Keep a close watch on candles used in other areas of the home, and snuff them before leaving or going to bed. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 15,000 candle-related fires occur each year, resulting in 140 deaths and $307 million in property loss! A safer choice would be electric, low-watt candles.
  4. Holiday decorations are a novelty to children and pets. Keep decorations high and out of reach if you feel that ingestion may be an issue.
  5. Before stringing lights indoors or outdoors, check the cords for fraying. Use only lights rated by a safety lab such as Underwriters Laboratory. Ensure you are using lights made for the intended use. Never string more than three strings together. Lights should be plugged into a receptacle that is a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Extension cords, if needed, should be appropriately rated for your decorating plans.


Few things are as inviting as a blazing fire in the hearth and its warmth and hominess during the holidays. Keep in mind that it is still fire and needs to be handled with respect.
  1. If you chose to use fire salts, do so with caution and keep the container away from children and pets. Fire salts are toxic with heavy metal and intensely irritating to the stomach.
  2. Fireplaces should not be used for burning wrapping paper. Many papers contain metallic material and burn at a high temperature, with potential to cause a flash fire. If you are not going to reuse the paper, dispose it with your garbage or recycle.
  3. Place a fireplace screen in front of the fire to avoid embers escaping and causing a burn or fire.


Following a few simple safety tips will help make the holidays positively memorable. Wishing each of you a very happy and absolutely safe holiday season from the St. John Trauma Staff and Injury Prevention!

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