keep your family safe during the holidaysAs we enter the midst of the holiday season, communities are buzzing with preparation for annual holiday parties, gift shopping, and travel. However, holiday safety should remain top of mind since this is also a time for increasing accidents, burglaries, and even house fires.

Why is holiday safety important?

Statistics are showing that during the holidays, there is an alarming increase in household fires, theft, and medical injuries. Below are just a few of the statistics:

As alarming as these numbers may be, “most holiday-related accidents and thefts are preventable,” says Christopher Campbell, FirstService Residential regional director. “You just have to know – and implement – some simple measures.”

Below we’ve listed four holiday safety tips to ensure you enjoy a merry season with friends and family. 

1. Keep An Eye on the Fire

There’s nothing like enjoying some time spent with family and friends around an open fireplace or candlelight dinner table. However, if you're not careful, silly mistakes can easily result in serious consequences. According to the NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 790 home structure fires per year caused by decorations, excluding Christmas trees. “Every home should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors,“ Campbell points out. “Check them regularly to make sure they are working properly.” In addition, take these specific precautions:

  • Fireplace – Before you light the first fire of the season, get your chimney inspected. An inspection will determine if everything is working properly and whether there’s an excess buildup of creosote. Creosote is highly flammable and builds up from repeated use of your fireplace. It needs to be professionally removed to prevent ventilation problems and fire hazards. Always use a screen to prevent embers from popping out and to protect children and pets. Keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away, and ensure the fire is out before you go to bed.  

  • Candles – Place candles on sturdy surfaces away from flammable objects or decorations. Keep candles, lighters, and matches out of reach if you have young children or pets. Consider replacing wax candles with electric ones to be cautious.  

  • Christmas tree – Christmas trees are a popular decoration for homes during the holidays. However, this also means that there is an increased risk of fire when using them. To reduce these risks, select a fresh-cut tree and cut a few inches off the trunk so it can absorb more water. Place the tree away from open flames and other heat sources (such as a radiator). Water it daily and dispose of it right after Christmas or as soon as it begins to dry. If you opt for an artificial tree instead, make sure it is fire retardant.  

  • Kitchen – “The holidays are when we tend to get distracted easily,” Campbell says, “but as busy as you may be, it’s best not to try to multitask during meal prep. Remain in the kitchen when cooking and set a timer as a reminder to regularly check food in the oven.” Campbell also urges residents to keep a fire extinguisher on hand. “That’s important to have not just during the holidays but all year long,” he says.  

2. Deck the halls with care

Making your home more festive with lights, decorations, and seasonal plants is part of what creates holiday fun. However, you won’t enjoy it as much if a decorating accident results in a trip to the hospital. Avoid the emergency room by following these holiday safety recommendations:  

  • Lighting – Check for frayed wires, broken sockets, and missing bulbs. Inspect extension cords for damage too. Unplug the lights on your Christmas tree before going to bed or leaving the house. If you are putting up lights outdoors, be sure they are appropriate for outdoor use. Use outdoor extension cords as well. Use clips to hang your lights. Nails can damage cords, and so can running cords through windows or doors.  

  • Holiday plants – The berries from holly and mistletoe are toxic, so avoid these plants if you have young children or pets. Contrary to what you may have heard, poinsettias are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Although they may cause symptoms like vomiting and drooling, ingestion rarely requires medical attention.  

  • Ornaments – Another precaution if you have young children or pets is to avoid using breakable ornaments. It’s also best to forego ornaments that children can mistake for candy or that might pose a choking hazard.  

  • Outdoor decorations – When placing decorations outside your home, be mindful of where you plan on placing these items. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to decorate your home for the holidays and ending up falling from your ladder. Heed warning labels when utilizing a ladder to avoid injury and reconsider any rooftop projects. “If your decorating project requires going on the roof, leave it to a professional,” advises Campbell.  

3. Prepare before driving home for the holidays (or anywhere else)

More people are on the road this time of year doing last-minute shopping and traveling to holiday celebrations. That extra traffic means a higher risk of accidents, and weather conditions can even leave you stranded. Make your drive safer with this advice from Carfax:  adjust your tire pressure during the holidays

  • Vehicle maintenance – Make sure you’ve had all scheduled maintenance prior to a long trip. Before you leave, check your tires, lights and fluids. Breaking down isn’t something you want to include in your travel plans.

  • Staying alert – Avoid alcohol if you’ll be driving, and make sure to get a good night’s sleep before any long trips. With so much to do this time of year, many people shortchange their sleep, but driving drowsy can be as detrimental as driving under the influence. Take plenty of breaks, share the driving or make an overnight stop to avoid being on the road too long.  

  • Emergency preparation – Unexpected weather can leave you and your family stranded. Be sure you have a roadside emergency kit, as well as flashlights, food and water, and blankets.

4. Discourage the Grinch

Criminals are opportunists, so the best way to keep a Grinch from ruining your holidays is to take extra precautions. Of course, follow normal safeguards, like locking doors at home and in your car and parking in well-lit areas. In addition, add these safety measures:  

  • Gifts – Don’t put gifts under your tree until Christmas. You don’t want to tempt a burglar who peers in your window. The same goes for presents or shopping bags in your car. It only takes seconds for a thief to break the window and grab that special gift you just bought. Keep packages in your trunk while you’re out shopping.

  • Deliveries – With all the online shopping we do nowadays, it’s common for delivery services to leave packages at your door. However, those unattended deliveries are easy to steal. Always require a signature for packages or have them delivered to a trusted neighbor or to your work address.  

  • While you’re away – Criminals look for telltale signs that you’re not home, so take appropriate precautions. Set lights and even your TV on a timer. Stop your mail and newspaper deliveries, or have a neighbor to pick them up regularly. Ask your neighbor to also leave a car in your driveway periodically to make it seem that someone is home. 

Your holidays will be much more enjoyable if you take the proper steps to protect yourself, your family and your property. Have a safe holiday season!

Tuesday November 29, 2022