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Thursday, May 24, 2018  |  215 Days Until Christmas

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Christmas Tree Safety Tips
Festival Of Lights

Christmas Tree Safety TipsRemember that scene from The Christmas Story during which the family patriarch, in an enthusiastic effort to plug in his "beloved major award" (for those of who haven't seen the film, let's just say it's a lamp that elevates "tacky" to an entirely new level), considers which cord to pull from an extension device already smoking and stacked with countless plugs? The device pops and cuts the electricity -- including the major award and the lit-and-leaning Christmas tree -- when Dad finally makes his decision. But perseverance pays off, and moments later, the electricity is back on (despite the fire hazard hanging out of the wall), the major award gleaming from its prominent position in the center of the front window ... much to the mortification of the compliant family matriarch, and to the fascination of curious neighbors.

If your family's approach to holiday safety bears a close resemblance to this one, it's time for a reevaluation -- and a family conference about tree-safety practices that will keep your home, the kids and the family dog safe and unflammable this year. These guidelines certainly apply to everyone, not just those of us who observe Christmas, but those of us who do celebrate the arrival of Santa and feel the need to deck our houses with numerous lights, running enough electricity through the neighborhood to service a small continent. So the following tips are written with you at heart.

First, check your carbon monoxide detector and fire detectors throughout the house (note that "detectors" is plural ... you should own more than one regardless of the size of your home), and install fresh batteries as needed. In fact, as you're out shopping for the batteries that will be placed in those gifts under the tree, pick up some extra batteries for your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector. Now, let's start with that big, green fire hazard standing in your living room.

If you haven't purchased one yet and plan to select a fresh tree, remember to do a "needle check" when you're on the tree lot. Shake the tree a bit. If the needles are dropping from the branches like flies, press on and forget this tree. Excessive loss of needles indicates that the tree is drying out, which significantly increases the risk of fire. Dry branches are more sensitive to heat from lights. Once you've made your decision and brought your tree home, make sure that you've provided it with adequate amounts of water. Replace the water in the container daily. This, of course, prevents the tree from drying out and placing your family at greater risk of fire; but it also keeps your tree looking healthier for a longer period.

If you have toddlers or very young children, you may want to consider purchasing a tabletop tree. It doesn't take much effort for a child to tug on a branch and send the entire tree tumbling to the floor, if it doesn't hit the child first.

Just as Christmas lights can present a risk to a tree and a home, so can any household appliance that emanates heat. At best, they'll dry out your tree, and at worst, they could present the risk of fire. This includes fireplaces, heating vents, wood-fueled stoves and portable heaters. Keep all such appliances far away from your Christmas tree.

So many families have learned the hard way that their tree decorations and ornaments can pose serious risks to young children and pets. This includes not just small ornaments -- which curious toddlers and young children (and pets) could pull off and swallow -- but also anything you drape around the tree and your home in general: garlands, tinsel and cords. Many varieties of garlands and greenery are poisonous. Electrical cords should be kept far out of the reach of pets and children of all ages, but before you hang anything, check the cords for signs of wear. Are they beginning to fray? Do you spot any exposed metal? Do you see any places on the wire cover that appear to be melting? If so, throw them away immediately. If you have any doubts whatsoever about an electrical cord, toss it. Both Christmas lights and extension cords are inexpensive commodities. Your family's safety is priceless.

When the holidays are over, don't hang onto your tree for an excessive period out of sentimentality. It's time to toss it. Why? Because it's very likely that your tree is already drying out quickly despite your frequent water changes, and for each day it remains standing, your risk of household fire increases -- even if you've stopped illuminating your Christmas lights. As you dismantle your tree and remove the ornaments and lights, inspect them carefully. Wrap the breakable ornaments individually in layers of tissue paper to prevent shattering (and to avoid getting a nasty cut next year), and inspect the strings of lights one by one as they come off the tree. While they may have been in good shape when you hung them on the tree, the lights may have deteriorated during the holidays. Toss them now to avoid any hazards next year.

A simple approach to holiday decorating is the safest approach for families of young children. The more lavish your decorating becomes, the greater the temptation to your children and pets. During this time of year, it's important to remember that children often delight in the simplest of holiday pleasures. So string wisely, water your tree, remind your family of the above-mentioned safety tips, and enjoy the holidays worry-free. That's the best gift you could give your family.

Merry Christmas!

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