Holiday Tips From the CPSC and Other Safety Agencies

Posted on December 6, 2012

There’s no shortage of sources out there providing some holiday safety tips to consumers, but perhaps no entity has established the same authority as the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  When this government agency talks, people listen, and thus it’s great to see them working with the National Fire Protection Association and the Maryland State Fire Marshal to warn consumers about the many dangers, most of them fire-related, that can derail holiday festivities.

First, one needs to understand just how susceptible homes are to fire and other hazards during this time of the year.  In 2011, 14,000 injuries resulted from holiday decorations of some sort, an increase from two years before, when 12,000 people were injured.  And between 2008 and 2010, fires stemming from candles claimed the lives of 74 people and led to property damage in the neighborhood of $347 million.  Christmas tree fires contributed to $19 million in damage in 2010 as well.

It’s not surprising, then, that the fire marshal is emphasizing the importance of testing carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms on a regular basis.  If you haven’t done so, make sure you initiate these tests before the holidays begin in earnest.  To further prevent fire, he encourages the proper watering of live Christmas trees and constant supervision of any food that’s being cooked.  And just in case a fire does break out, all exits in your home should be unblocked so as to promote a hasty escape.

Preventing fire goes far beyond that, though.  You first need to be sure that your holiday lights are safe enough to be plugged in and hung.  If they haven’t been tested by a trusted agency such as Underwriters Laboratories, then consider an alternative set of lights.  And make sure that the lights you do hang are placed only in the indoor or outdoor environment they’re rated for.  Before you hang the lights up, make sure that not only the lights are in good condition, but that the extension cord you plan to plug it into is free of damage and capable of handling the energy output.

Fire safety extends even to artificial Christmas trees.  If your fake tree doesn’t say “Fire Resistant” on an affixed label, then go with a tree that does.  Fire risks can never be snuffed out completely, but a fire resistant tree can at least mitigate the threat.  All trees should be placed away from any heat sources and out of the way of heavily trafficked paths.

Finally, be aware of additional hazards that are present if young children reside in your home.  When decorating the tree, make sure to keep small objects out of such kids’ reach so that they don’t try to eat the items.  And if any decorations are breakable or sharp, don’t hang them.

By following these steps and more available at the link above, you can help protect yourself and your family from danger.

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